The Untold Truth Of Esther Choi (2022)

The Untold Truth Of Esther Choi (1)

Like most successful chefs, Esther Choi discovered her true love at a young age: food. She got her first restaurant job at the age of 14 while growing up in Egg Harbor, New Jersey, according to her biography on the Institute of Culinary Education website. "Over the years I realized that it was not just a job anymore; my love and passion for food grew every day," Choi said. "At some point, I realized opening my own restaurant was something I had to do."

Choi’s love of food was inspired by her grandmother, who improvised Korean dishes in their south New Jersey home by growing her own Korean herbs and then making the most of what American grocery stores had to offer, according to Matador. While some celebrity chefs may come across as too full of themselves, Choi’s grandmother taught her humility. "Her philosophy was always, cook with your whole heart, cook with love. It’s really about the person you’re cooking for, and not necessarily about yourself," Choi said.

Her grandmother’s dumpling recipe would end up being the most popular appetizer at Choi’s first restaurant, Mŏkbar, according to a video by KoreanAmericanStory.org. Choi even calls them halmoni dumplings, "halmoni" being Korean for "grandmother."

(Video) How Esther Choi Created Mokbar

Esther Choi’s first restaurant was an instant success

The Untold Truth Of Esther Choi (2)

Esther Choi opened Mŏkbar in 2014 at the age of 28 (via Nation’s Restaurant News), which suggests she just burst onto New York’s culinary scene without paying her dues. That would be wrong; Choi earned everything she got. When she hit the hot line in restaurants after culinary school, she had to work twice as hard as her colleagues in this male-dominated part of the kitchen to earn respect, per Matador. She worked up to 100 hours a week with no days off, running from a daytime server job at one restaurant to an evening kitchen shift in another. To win a space in Manhattan’s Chelsea Market for Mŏkbar, Choi had to impress the selection committee with an 80-page business plan and a real-world test of her skills: a dinner for 10.

Mŏkbar was an instant hit. The restaurant’s website mentions that Choi made Zagat’s "30 under 30" list, and Mŏkbar earned the Village Voice reader’s choice award for best new restaurant. With Mŏkbar, Choi uses a familiar vehicle — the Japanese noodle restaurant — to introduce newbies to Korean cuisine (via The Korea Times). "They are so excited to have found these new flavors," Choi said. "That kind of reaction that we get, that to me is pretty amazing. I’m proud to be able to do that with our culture."

Esther Choi has three restaurants with a fourth on the way

The Untold Truth Of Esther Choi (3)

When Esther Choi opened her second Mŏkbar location in Brooklyn, in 2017, she got away from the easy lure of the Japanese noodle. As Choi told KoreanAmericanStory.org in the second video the organization made about her, the Mŏkbar BK menu is more refined and more traditionally Korean. In the video, Choi showed Mŏkbar BK’s jipbap, or home meal — a traditional Korean spread with rice, a protein, and side dishes presented in small bowls. Choi also presented a mung bean pancake made with a white kimchi that lacks the usual spicy Korean red pepper. "When kimchi first came about, it didn’t have red pepper in it, actually," Choi said.

(Video) UNCLE ROGER MEET HIS FAVORITE CHEF (ft. Auntie Esther)

Also in 2017, Choi and her partners opened a gastropub, which is just a fancy word for a bar with good food. The Lower East Side lounge, called Ms. Yoo, was inspired by another NYC gastropub, The Spotted Pig (via Eater New York). Choi’s third location also was obviously inspired, yet again, by her grandmother. Ms. Yoo is Choi’s grandmother. OpenTable noted that Ms. Yoo, the restaurant/bar, was the inverse of Choi’s Mŏkbar restaurants. Rather than offering Korean dishes with a Western touch, Ms. Yoo offered American food with Korean flavors.

Choi plans to open a third Mŏkbar in Midtown Manhattan this fall (via Time Out). When summer arrives, Choi will retreat to the Hamptons, to be a Pop Up Nation guest chef at Old Stove Pub.

Esther Choi is becoming a food TV fixture

The Untold Truth Of Esther Choi (4)

New Yorkers may know Esther Choi through the hopping night-life scene at Ms. Yoo or the authentic Korean flavors at her Mŏkbar restaurants. The rest of us know her through her many television appearances. Her first job at Food Network, however, may not be what you think. Before she even opened her first restaurant, Choi worked in the purchasing department, finding ingredients for the network’s stable of celebrity chefs, according to Eater. Even then, Choi got a smidgen of media exposure. She was featured in 2012 on Food Network’s FN Dish blog, making a "family meal" for her coworkers. (A family meal is what a restaurant kitchen prepares for the staff before the dinner shift.) FN Dish might have pulled off the Food Network understatement of the decade when the blogger wrote, "Esther is especially good at making Korean food."

(Video) Chef Esther Choi & Dave (데이브) - Fun With Dumb (Korea Edition) - Ep. 192

Choi’s real TV career began as a contestant in Season 2 of "Beat Bobby Flay," per Food Network. She appeared as a guest chef on "The Chew" in 2017 and "Today" in 2018 (via IMDb). Then came stints as judge on "Worst Cooks in America" and "Chopped." Up next is a guest-judge slot on "Battle of the Brothers," which starts on Discovery+ June 17. That’s not all. Choi hosted a kitchen gadget show for Eater. Amazon live-streamed "Cooking with Esther Choi," according to the Mŏkbar website, and she is featured in "Her Name Is Chef," the 2021 documentary about sexism in the restaurant industry.

Esther Choi has publicly embraced cannabis

The Untold Truth Of Esther Choi (5)

Esther Choi’s ascension to TV celebrity coincides with increasing mainstream acceptance of cannabis, exemplified by new shows such as "Chopped 420" on Discovery+. Think "Chopped," except some variation of cannabis will appear in those mystery baskets. The show hit the streaming service on April 20 (appropriately enough), with Choi appearing as a regular judge.

Choi and cannabis are a good fit. She defeated two other Korean chefs in a 2019 episode of Viceland’s "Bong Appétit," making an appetizer, main course, and dessert with THC-infused products. The contestants got high, and the judges got even higher. Choi said on the show she has never cooked with cannabis before, but she’s no newbie. "I am a user, of course," Choi said. "I need it. It’s very medicinal for me."

(Video) Not Your Average: Esther Choi of Mokbar BK

Keeping with the cannabis theme, Choi launched a CBD-infused sesame oil called Sessy in April (via Instagram). "I am so happy to see the industry growing out of its stereotype and being destigmatized, as really it is a plant with so many positive qualities," Choi wrote on Instagram.

For Esther Choi, food is a gateway to Korean culture

The Untold Truth Of Esther Choi (6)

Over the past few years, Choi has evolved from chef to entrepreneur. "Life of a Restaurateur," a three-part video series on her YouTube channel choibites, gave her fans access to a day in the life of Choi that did not involve a lick of kitchen work. She met media producers, she scouted New York’s financial district for a new restaurant location, she tasted wine, she strategized in the Mŏkbar business office, and she dropped in on Ms. Yoo — which was still jumping after 1 a.m.

One of the latest phases in Choi’s evolution was her podcast, "Get Down with K-Town," which was about more than Korean food (via The Creative Independent). "When I started to expand on my career, that also had to do with media presence and being that face of Korean food," Choi said. "Then that evolved into not only Korean food but Korean culture as well."

(Video) $151 vs $19 Fried Chicken Sandwich: Pro Chef & Home Cook Swap Ingredients | Epicurious

Choi had set her sights on expanding from food to culture years earlier. "What I’m trying to aim to do is spark an interest in the culture by food," Choi told KoreanAmericanStory.org in a video in 2016. "Food is really the starter of what interests you in any type of culture. Who would really care about Korean culture really that much if it wasn’t for the f****** food? The food is, like, so … good, and just so different, and really special." We could say the same about Esther Choi.

FAQs

Who is Esther Choi? ›

Esther Choi is an influential Chef driven by her Korean roots and is chef/owner of mŏkbar and mŏkbar Brooklyn, as well as chef/partner of Ms. Yoo. Inspired by the age-old technique of her Korean grandmother's cooking, Chef Esther believes that food is the ultimate expression of a country's culture.

Does Esther Choi win Iron legend? ›

While Choi did not win the title of Iron Legend, her performance on the show was more than respectable. After the bout with Samuelsson, she advanced to the final because of her high score.

Who is Auntie Esther in Uncle Roger? ›

First Apprearance. Esther Choi Also Known as Auntie Esther is the Chef and owner of Mokbar and Ms. Yoo in New York City. She has recently become a major protagonist in the Uncle Roger videos, and will hopefully return in the future in some capacity.

Where is Chef Esther Choi from? ›

mŏkbar chef and owner Esther Choi grew up cooking traditional Korean food with her Korean-native grandmother. So while Esther was born in New Jersey and spent her early childhood in the oceanside town of Egg Harbor, she was always keenly aware of her Korean heritage.

Who is the best chef in the world? ›

Joël Robuchon: 31 stars

Joël Robuchin holds the number one spot amongst the world's top 10 chefs, making him the best chef in the world according to Michelin star ratings.

Who becomes Iron legend? ›

In the final episode of the season, Challenger Esther Choi faces off against all five Iron Chefs in an epic sea-themed battle. So no one is crowned the Iron Legend! The good news is that Esther can take pride in being the most successful challenger, but The Chairman's search for the Iron Legend will continue.

Do Iron Chefs get paid? ›

How much does an IRON CHEF make? As of Sep 14, 2022, the average annual pay for an IRON CHEF in the United States is $50,012 a year.

Has anyone beat the Iron Chef? ›

^108 Zakarian's record does not include his loss to Morimoto in Battle Sardines, or his victory over Elizabeth Falkner in the finale of The Next Iron Chef as Zakarian did not hold the title Iron Chef during either battle.
...
The Iron Chefs.
Iron ChefMichael Symon
Loss7
Draw1
Total42
Win %82.1%
10 more columns

Is Auntie Helen a real person? ›

Here's exactly who Auntie Helen is in real life. Uncle Roger's ex-wife "Auntie Helen" is actually based on his real ex, Evelyn Mok. The lockdown YouTube comedian paints a picture of Mok as an abusive wife, and he makes dirty jokes about her treatment of him and the divorce itself.

Why did Auntie Helen leave Uncle Roger? ›

But actually, Evelyn Mok is the Auntie Helen, as confirmed in a podcast of Nigel and her. They roast Uncle Roger so bad, even his genitals were insulted upon, and one of the reasons Auntie Helen and Uncle Roger broke up.

Why is Nigel called Uncle Roger? ›

Ng became popular on social media as Uncle Roger, a middle-aged Asian man who reviews Asian-food recipes with an exaggerated and pronounced Cantonese-like accent and prides himself on various East, Southeast, and South Asian stereotypes.

What shows has Esther Choi been on? ›

Esther Choi (III)
  • Known For. Battle of the Brothers Esther Choi (2021)
  • Throwdown with Michael Symon Owner, Mokbar / Self (2021)
  • Chopped Chef & Restaurateur / Self - Judge (2020)
  • Chopped 420 Self - Judge (2021)
  • Actress. Battle of the Brothers Esther Choi (2021)

Does Marcus Samuelsson have a restaurant? ›

Marcus Samuelsson

How do you become an Iron Chef? ›

To be included in the prestigious Iron Chef roster, you have to be one of the most highly regarded chefs in the country and receive enough votes to be awarded the Iron Chef title through a series of rigorous cooking competitions, which air on another Food Network show, "The Next Iron Chef." Become a top chef.

Who is the richest chef in the world? ›

Net Worth: $1.1 Billion

Alan Wong is the richest celebrity chef in the world. What is this? He's a chef and restaurateur who's most widely known as one of the twelve co-founders of Hawaii Regional Cuisine.

Why did Gordon Ramsay lost his Michelin stars? ›

The reason is simple: his dishes weren't consistent. That said, Ramsay is still incredibly popular in the industry. His eatery, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, has been awarded three Michelin stars since 2001; Ramsay is also the first Scottish chef to win three Michelin stars.

Who trained Gordon Ramsay? ›

After earning a vocational diploma in hotel management from North Oxon Technical College in 1987, he moved to London and began honing his culinary skills under chef Marco Pierre White at the restaurant Harvey's and under chef Albert Roux at La Gavroche.

Is the Iron Chef Chairman really the nephew? ›

Beginning in January 2005, Dacascos has portrayed "the Chairman" on Food Network's television series Iron Chef America. This role was previously played by Takeshi Kaga in the original Japanese Iron Chef, and Dacascos' character is presented as Kaga's nephew, though the actors are not related.

Who was the king of Iron Chef? ›

Thus, Hiroyuki Sakai was dubbed as both "King of Iron Chefs" and "The No. 1 in the World."

What happens when you beat the Iron Chef? ›

If you manage to eliminate all other competitors, you'll have the final challenge of defeating all 3 existing Iron Chefs. If any of them eliminates you in a challenge, you will not earn the title of Iron Chef. If you do beat all 3 Iron Chefs, you'll receive a contract from the network and a position as an Iron Chef.

How long do Iron Chefs have to plan? ›

TIL that on Iron Chef America the chefs have a 45 minute strategy session after the secret ingredient is revealed before they start cooking.

Who has the most Michelin stars in the world? ›

Top 10 Chefs with the Most Michelin Stars
  • Joël Robuchon: 32 Michelin Stars. ...
  • Alain Ducasse: 21 Michelin Stars. ...
  • Gordon Ramsay: 17 Michelin Stars. ...
  • Pierre Gagnaire: 14 Michelin Stars. ...
  • Martin Berasategui: 12 Michelin Stars. ...
  • Yannick Alléno: 10 Michelin Stars. ...
  • Andreas Caminada: 9 Michelin Stars. ...
  • Anne-Sophie Pic: 9 Michelin Stars.
8 Aug 2022

Who are the current Iron Chefs 2022? ›

Michelin-starred, Los Angeles-based Curtis Stone, as an Iron Chef, joins the masterful line-up with Iron Chefs Marcus Samuelsson, Gabriela Cámara, Dominique Crenn and Ming Tsai. They vie with seven buzz-worthy challenger chefs for the ultimate Legend title.

What does Kai Bent-Lee do for a living? ›

Kai and Levi Bent-Lee are restaurateurs. They're Susur Lee's sons, and they've been involved in helping expand his food empire.

How tall is Kai Bent-Lee? ›

How tall is Kai Bent-Lee? The height of Kai Bent-Lee, one of the most famous YouTubers from Canada, is estimated to be 6 ft 1 in (185 cm).

How old is susur Lee? ›

Do Iron Chef contestants know secret ingredient beforehand? ›

It turns out the chefs do know in advance ... kind of. Before the show, they're told the secret ingredient could be one of three items. "I think to just say you have no idea what the ingredient is when you come in is impossible, because you have to stock the kitchen," said Knowlton.

Did Gordon Ramsay ever appear on Iron Chef? ›

However, Ramsay never formally accepted the invitation to go on Iron Chef. Flay got him back, however. In 2016, Ramsay was excited to finally face Flay in his Vegas restaurant. Ramsay would be filming Hell's Kitchen in Vegas, so it would be the perfect opportunity for the cook off.

Has Gordon Ramsay ever competed in a cooking competition? ›

Ramsay, on the other hand, doesn't seem to have any televised cooking competition experience of his own, at least not with himself as a contestant rather than a host. Still, this isn't the first time he's publicly proclaimed his desire to face-off against Flay, as noted by People.

What is Uncle Rogers real name? ›

The person behind Uncle Roger is London-based Malaysian stand-up Nigel Ng. He's currently in the middle of a huge world tour (his first headlining tour ever as a comic), driven by the massive popularity of Uncle Roger.

How old is Uncle Roger? ›

Who is Aunty Jenny? ›

Primarily portrayed by Edith Spencer, Aunt Jenny was best known as host and narrator of the long-lived radio show, Aunt Jenny's Real Life Stories (January 18, 1937 – November 16, 1956), but she was also seen promoting the product in drawings, photographs and cookbooks.

Is Mr Nigel Ng married? ›

He's divorced in real life

Uncle Roger occasionally makes reference to his ex-wife, the fictional Helen, in his videos – but it appears that Ng might have some real-life inspiration for the character.

Does Uncle Roger actually know how do you cook? ›

Food Is For Sharing | 20 Questions With Nigel Ng | Waitrose - YouTube

What does Nigel Ng earn? ›

Nigel Ng Kin-ju is a Chinese Malaysian stand-up comic and YouTuber who became a worldwide hit by portraying the persona of Uncle Roger. His newfound success has given him an estimated net worth of $500,000 (£370,000) in 2022.

What shows has Esther Choi been on? ›

Esther Choi (III)
  • Known For. Battle of the Brothers Esther Choi (2021)
  • Throwdown with Michael Symon Owner, Mokbar / Self (2021)
  • Chopped Chef & Restaurateur / Self - Judge (2020)
  • Chopped 420 Self - Judge (2021)
  • Actress. Battle of the Brothers Esther Choi (2021)

What does the chairman of Iron Chef say? ›

Cuisine!" — The Chairman. Perhaps the two most-revered words ever uttered in Kitchen Stadium, "Allez! Cuisine!" literally translates to "Go! Kitchen!" This phrase marks the official beginning of every battle.

Where is Chef Curtis Duffy now? ›

Chef and Owner

Curtis Duffy is a world-renowned, Michelin-starred chef, and his Chicago restaurant Ever is his creative obsession. Duffy has won numerous accolades. Ever was awarded two Michelin stars in the 2022 Guide.

Has anyone beat the Iron Chef? ›

^108 Zakarian's record does not include his loss to Morimoto in Battle Sardines, or his victory over Elizabeth Falkner in the finale of The Next Iron Chef as Zakarian did not hold the title Iron Chef during either battle.
...
The Iron Chefs.
Iron ChefMichael Symon
Loss7
Draw1
Total42
Win %82.1%
10 more columns

How do you become an Iron Chef? ›

To be included in the prestigious Iron Chef roster, you have to be one of the most highly regarded chefs in the country and receive enough votes to be awarded the Iron Chef title through a series of rigorous cooking competitions, which air on another Food Network show, "The Next Iron Chef." Become a top chef.

When did Mokbar open? ›

In 2017, Choi founded the Korean eatery Mokbar in New York City's Chelsea Market.

Do Iron Chef contestants know secret ingredient beforehand? ›

It turns out the chefs do know in advance ... kind of. Before the show, they're told the secret ingredient could be one of three items. "I think to just say you have no idea what the ingredient is when you come in is impossible, because you have to stock the kitchen," said Knowlton.

How much do the Iron Chefs get paid? ›

IRON CHEF Salary
Annual SalaryMonthly Pay
Top Earners$75,000$6,250
75th Percentile$59,500$4,958
Average$50,012$4,167
25th Percentile$36,500$3,041

Why does he say Allez cuisine? ›

According to Food Network, “Allez cuisine!” loosely translates to “Go kitchen!” Essentially, the Chairman tells the chefs to go to the kitchen and start cooking. It may or may not sound grammatically correct in French. Still, the Chairman announces it every time to signal the beginning of each battle.

How much does it cost to eat at ever Chicago? ›

At Ever, the eight- to 10-course meals will cost diners $285 per person, a little less than the $300 target announced last year. In this age of COVID-19, dynamic pricing doesn't seem to be in effect. That cost puts Ever in the same category as pre-pandemic Alinea, near the top of the priciest restaurants in Chicago.

Why did the Chicago restaurant Grace close? ›

In December 2017, Curtis Duffy and Michael Muser left Grace after a dispute with restaurant owner Michael Olszewski. Shortly afterward, Olszewski closed the restaurant.

Did Curtis Duffy work at Alinea? ›

Duffy met Chef Grant Achatz at Trio, and in 2004, they left Trio to open Alinea, where Duffy worked as Chef de Cuisine. Alinea skyrocketed to fame, being named the "Best Restaurant in America" by Gourmet just a year after opening, and is widely recognized as one of the best restaurants in the world.

Videos

1. Korean Fried Chicken Stuffed and Served Whole – K-Town
(Eater)
2. Making Dumplings From Scratch with Esther Choi of Mokbar | Quarantine Cooking
(Munchies)
3. How To Make A Korean Rice Burger With Esther Choi From Mokbar
(The Kelly Clarkson Show)
4. Pro Chefs Tour Seoul's Legendary Korean Street Food Market | Snacked
(First We Feast)
5. PRO CHEF REACTS | Esther Choi: Pro Chef, Home Cook Swap Fried Rice Ingredients
(Chef Brian Tsao)
6. $11Ramen wie von Chef Esther Choi
(JUSTCALLMEPHI)

Top Articles

You might also like

Latest Posts

Article information

Author: Tish Haag

Last Updated: 11/20/2022

Views: 5879

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (47 voted)

Reviews: 86% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Tish Haag

Birthday: 1999-11-18

Address: 30256 Tara Expressway, Kutchburgh, VT 92892-0078

Phone: +4215847628708

Job: Internal Consulting Engineer

Hobby: Roller skating, Roller skating, Kayaking, Flying, Graffiti, Ghost hunting, scrapbook

Introduction: My name is Tish Haag, I am a excited, delightful, curious, beautiful, agreeable, enchanting, fancy person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.