The X Factor
New baby, new restaurant: It’s all in a week’s work for Chicago’s award-winning Chef Beverly Kim
We continue our series spotlighting extraordinary females in foodservice with Chicago-based, James Beard Award-winning chef, Beverly Kim. As she prepared to open her second restaurant, Wherewithall, with husband Johnny Clark—while still running Michelin-starred Parachute and juggling a growing family—Kim took a step back to consider her amazing journey to the top.
Kim admits she was blessed with a strong mentor who recognized her potential early on. As a 16 year old, in the mid-1990s, shadowing legendary Chef Sarah Stegner, Kim says: “I was very encouraged to see a woman leader; there were very few of them at the time. I felt an unspoken feeling of security, just knowing that she made it happen.”
Encouraged by Stegner to further hone her skills, Kim earned a culinary degree, and in the eventful decade following, worked for top names like Takashi Yagihashi and Charlie Trotter, became an executive chef at Hotel Fairmont Chicago – Millennium Park, married soulmate Johnny Clark and shot to national prominence as a finalist on season nine of “Top Chef.” What she also discovered was a passion to bring community together under her roof to break bread, and with Clark, opened Parachute in 2014.
“It’s not traditional Korean,” Kim explains, “but my interpretation of what Korean-American food can look like.”
While diners can order classic bibimbap and will always see an ultra-comforting baked potato-flavored bing bread on the menu, the rest is seasonal. But what may distinguish Parachute most is Kim’s vision of hospitality.
“It’s about love,” she says. “All my best memories are connected to food, and Parachute is about creating great memories for my guests.”
The newly opened Wherewithall is also a place for community to gather, she stresses, with a four-course menu and all-day bar stocked with local wines and spirits.
“It’s meant to be approachable, a place that delights you, but no need to save up for a year to come.”
“Approachable” is the right word for Kim, too, who is grounded in a way that belies her many prestigious awards.
“You can’t take your accolades with you. It’s what you give back that’s most important. We have to continue opening doors for women and keep having the conversations sparked by #MeToo about the right thing to do. It may take a generation until it’s no longer an issue.”
Kim also offers the same generous health-insurance stipend to Wherewithall employees as she has for the last five years at Parachute.
“Our industry has been behind in this, and people are still largely unaware of food costs and the human cost of getting that food to the table.”
Her advice to women: “Surround yourself with people who will work with you toward a common goal. I’m nobody without the support around me, but you also have to feel you deserve that support.”
Along with that is permission to dream big.
“People would often ask me ‘do you really want that?’ Life is full of ‘what-ifs,’ but believe in yourself—and work your butt off!”