May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. In celebration, WGN’s Shannon Halligan sat down with one of the city’s most celebrated chefs to discuss how she’s using her platform to help women and Asian Americans.
CHICAGO — For the first time since the pandemic shut down restaurants more than two years ago, Chef Beverly Kim’s critically acclaimed restaurant Parachute recently reopened.
But during that time, she’s also been very busy raising a family, starting a non-profit and supporting her community.
Kim became a household name after she was a finalist on the cooking show Top Chef. But when COVID-19 hit, the James Beard Award winning chef made the tough decision to shut down her renowned restaurant.
It was a difficult time for her and everyone in the restaurant industry.
But it lit a flame inside Kim.
“I had the time and the space to think about how I was going to get through this and how I was going to do something positive because I was really feeling really negative about myself. I was feeling really negative about the world,” she said.
She decided to help launch a non-profit aimed at helping mothers in the culinary industry.
“While you have more than 54% culinary graduates being women, only like maybe 7% make it to the top as owners or lead executive chefs,” she said. “We really have to ask why women fall out of the industry.”
That’s how the Abundance Setting was born.
The organization helped feed and mentor working moms.
As a mother of three, Kim knew about the struggles because she experienced it herself.
“As I was working through the industry, I was finding how discouraging it was to be a woman, to be a person of color, to choose to be a mom, and how it was so easy to give up,” she said.
Kim grew up in Downers Grove, the child of Korean immigrants. Despite all of her success, she experienced her share of discrimination.
“I think I’ve struggled throughout my career to find my voice as an Asian American,” she said. “The duality of being an immigrant child and being told not to take space, or not to stand out too much.”
But last year, in response to anti-Asian harassment and racism, she helped launch the Dough Something movement.
More than 100 restaurants helped raise money to benefit Asian Americans Advancing Justice.
“One of the key ways to help fight Asian hate and the violence that we’re experiencing is by training others who are bystanders,” Kim said.
And now, more than two years later, Kim finally reopened Parachute. This time, with an even greater focus on her Korean roots.
“I think people are ready for exploring what’s more to Korean cuisine,” she said.