When KPOPme attended KCON 2014 last week on August 9th and 10th at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Center, we were able to meet and interview the lovely ladies of Crazy Korean Cooking, a cooking site that shares Korean cuisine in an educational and entertaining manner while providing access to Korean food products through its shopping branch.
KPOPme attended a panel on the first day of KCON where Crazy Korean Cooking’s duo discussed Hallyu culture shock, so we were excited to hear more about cooking and how it was an extension of the Korean Wave. With great senses of humor and a shared passion for cooking, Grace Park and Stephanie Maing prove to be a formidable duo full of energy and dedication to their craft. After two days of hard work, they took some time to talk to us about their KCON experience, websites, and future goals.
Introduction to Crazy Korean Cooking
When you visit CKC’s site, you’re immediately welcomed by an easy-to-follow design and helpful tips on cooking authentic kimbap, buying DIY bibimbap kit, and colorful pictures that lead you to recipes with meat, vegetarian options, seafood, and more. Established as a hobby about five years ago, Grace and Stephanie decided to turn their part-time interest into a full-time career in 2013. And, in the case that you’re new to their work, their “About Us” section describes CKC simply and perfectly:
CKC’s mission is simple. We exist to teach and spread authentic Korean cooking and food culture across the globe. It’s no secret we like to have fun, and laughter is a key CKC ingredient. But don’t be fooled, our aim is to strive for excellence in recipes and expansive knowledge in Korean cuisine. We may not always take ourselves very seriously, but the cooking itself – we’re not playing around.
If that’s not enough to garner your interest, then check out our interview with Grace and Stephanie below.
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Thuc: First things first, since you told me this was your first year at KCON, what’s your experience so far?
Stephanie: Oh, my experience has been wonderful. I mean, it’s great to see all these people from different nationalities and backgrounds gathered together, celebrating my own culture, Korean culture; so it’s wonderful to see that.
Grace: Yeah, it’s been amazing. Like Stephanie, I’ve just been really so surprised that there’s so many – to see so many different types of people from different backgrounds, different locations, different age groups, and a lot of non-Koreans, actually, so that’s been good. People have been so nice when, you know, we’re doing a cooking demo or whatever, and everyone’s just so eager to learn about Korea, Korean food, and Korean drama – Korean everything! Yeah, we’re just really happy to be here, honored to be here.
Stephanie: And for our business, we feel very, very encouraged that, I mean, when we decided to dive in, we didn’t know what to expect, and we didn’t know where it was going to take us. We are very encouraged that people are interested in K-Pop, not only K-Pop, but you know Korean culture and Korean cuisine, so you know it really motivates us to work harder as well.
Thuc: So how do you feel like your site has progressed ever since you started working full-time on Crazy Korean Cooking.com?
Grace: Well first of all, because we’ve been so busy before we did the full-time, first of all we’ve really spent a lot of time on expanding our recipes. So Stephanie takes all the photos, so like we would cook, and take the photos for everything and photo-shop everything, that’s what we worked on. So now we’re proud to say we have over 100 recipes, because before we started, there was like 16 or something, so that’s really good.
Also our shopping site where we sell Korean food and ingredients, it’s been really good. It’s also interesting to see what people are buying, for example we’re selling a lot of dolsot (stone bowl). Most of our customers are non-Koreans, actually. We’re just surprised at how many people are interested in dolsot. So it’s been very good, like, in terms of our traffic for example, we used to, last time this year, we used to have 3,000 a month. This year, we have almost 100,000 a month, and that’s a huge jump.
Thuc: That sounds great. If you had a chance to come to KCON next year, would you?
Stephanie: Oh yes, really!
Grace: Yeah, why not?
Thuc: What are your current goals for your site? I heard you were expanding into your shopping site, to sell more Korean ingredients. Are there any other areas that you want to expand into?
Grace: Well, actually…
Stephanie: First of all, we want to redesign our cooking website, make it more visually pleasing and also more user friendly.
Grace: Yeah, that’s definitely one goal. We are actually going to release new products, like our own. So like, we are collaborating with this artisan, Korean artisan, who lives in the States, but he makes great Korean sauces, like gochujang [red pepper paste], doenjang (soy sauce), like really authentic and in a traditional way. But because he’s so authentic and passionate about his jang, it’s not like he’s gonna spend time on marketing and stuff, so we’re gonna help him bring his stuff to non-Koreans. That’s our next step, and that’s really exciting. So yeah, we’re going to create more of our own products, like ingredient kits, if you want to make bibimbap, you can just buy a bibimbap kit, you have all the ingredients you need are in there. We also partnered up with kimchi artisans in Texas – Austin, Texas, actually.
Stephanie: We’re selling kimchi online as well!
Grace: Gluten free, chemical free, pesticide free. So I think in general, what we’re trying to do is we want to not just sell any ingredients; we want to bring quality ingredients. We don’t want to sell anything we wouldn’t use or we’re not proud of. We’re trying really hard to source artisans or products that are delicious of course, but good for you and healthy. If possible, we want to sell things that have no preservatives. Our goal is to curate products that are delicious but are good for the body and hopefully also good for society.
Stephanie: And providing the right information for Non-Korean people, because it’s very hard to find the any sort of sources or information for Korean food ingredients.
Grace: Also, Stephanie worked really hard on researching Korean ingredients. We haven’t finished yet, but we’re going to finish our ingredient wiki, Korean ingredient wiki, where you can find pretty much all Korean ingredients, like what they look like, what they’re good for, like nutrient information, history, like everything. And how to prepare ingredients, things like that. We spent a lot of time researching, so we just have to upload to the website with photos and everything.
Stephanie: (Laughing) Talking just made me realize that we have a lot to do.
Thuc: I’m pretty sure that you’re going to do well!
Grace: Yeah, and our customers are very happy! With every product that they purchase, even if it’s just one gochugaru [red pepper flakes] or gochujang, we include an info sheet, which has like what this is all about, what gochujang is, where this comes from, who’s the company, how do you use it, and people really appreciate it. Because sometimes, a lot of the time, when you’re trying to cook with an ingredient you’re not familiar with, you have no idea what it is or where to start.
Thuc: To close off this little interview, what would you like to say to your fans?
Both: Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Grace: Thank you so much for your interest, and we’re just really happy to be a part of this whole Korean wave. Well, what do you want to say? Ah, keep cooking! Don’t forget to do something crazy!
Stephanie: Yeah, but you know, the thing is, keep cooking, but don’t forget to have fun with it. I think that’s sort of our idea behind our brand, because even though we teach cooking in a very authentic way and we’re not joking around when it comes to that. But still, we manage to have fun, and I think that’s really essential in life and to have fun and be happy!
And I have to say that CKC’s words are extremely important! Happiness and passion go hand in hand, and it definitely showed in both Grace and Stephanie’s panels and our short interview. If you’re a cooking fanatic, and you’d like to try out some Korean cuisine, be sure to visit Crazy Korean Cooking’s website and watch their videos. Before you start though, I highly recommend checking out this one first, with a special appearance from Halmoni:
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