What’s the secret to having one of the best American barbecue joints in Seoul? For Linus Kim, the key ingredient may be constant dissatisfaction. In a year and a half, he has gone from pop-up food consultant to renowned barbecue chef and it’s not enough.
It’s dissatisfaction born of never being content with the flavor of his barbecue, regardless of how packed his restaurant may be or how much media coverage he gets.
I show up on an uncharacteristically quiet Monday morning, and things are not going well. His experiment in new brine solutions has run afoul due to a hotspot in the smoker and some unwelcome improvisation by one of his staff.
As Linus carefully pulls apart the pork, rubbing, smelling, and massaging the meat, it’s easy to remember that he started in barbecue wanting to be a certified barbecue judge before chancing it with an elite barbecue team in Little Rock, Arkansas.
“I’m always experimenting; it’s never good enough,” he says with a laugh. He’s not kidding.
Throughout the morning service business is brisk, but he prowls the floor and spots a mistake. While he has spent most of the past year in the kitchen, these days he’s doing quality control, making sure the food being served is up to his standard. A quick stop in the kitchen, a few words with the staff, and he comes back with a grimace.
The week is just getting started, and he has a lot of work to do.
5 Questions with Linus
How has your role changed in the year since you’ve opened? L: I’m sleeping a lot more and I spend a lot of time doing administrative work. There are some responsibilities that I just can’t pass onto others on my staff.
What do you eat when you’re not eating barbecue? L: Salads (laughs), a lot of salads. And fruit smoothies. I also love Korean food, though it’s hard to get in Itaewon.
What advice would you give yourself at the beginning of this restaurant? L: I could tell myself a lot of technical things, but I know I had to go through all of that myself to find my footing.
What style of barbecue is Linus BBQ? L: I know it can be a bit like jjampong, a mix of everything. My pork is Alabama style – a lot of vinegar, tangy. The brisket is more Texas style hybrid, with a simple salt and pepper rub.
What are some projects or goals you have going forward? L: Chitlins (pig intestine)! I’d like to bring chitlins into the mainstream. That would be my ultimate culinary legacy.
Linus BBQ Address: 56-20 Itaewon 1-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul Hours: Mon-Thurs 11:30 am – 3:00 pm; 5:30 pm – 10:00 pm Fri & Sat 11:30 am – 3:00 pm; 5:00 pm – 10:30 pm Sun 11:30 am – 3:00 pm; 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm Phone: 02-790-2920