Chefs in the City: Emily Yuen
For this Broadcast series, Pioneer Works Supper Club chefs and collaborators are asked what small businesses they frequent—in a celebration of city life, good food, and all things local. In the process, we learn more about their background, their worldview, and what day-to-day activities inform their creative, culinary practice.
NoHo restaurant Bessou focuses on Japanese home cooking, offering dishes that are based on food that owner Maiko Kyogoku grew up eating—her parents both moved to New York City from Japan and opened one of the first sushi restaurants on the Upper West Side. She and Bessou Chef Emily Yuen are also inspired by all the wonderful cuisines and cultures of New York, and utilize those influences and flavors for a modern update of classic home-style Japanese dishes.
Yuen and Kyogoku became friends in 2013 while working at Boulud Sud. Kyogoku is a native New Yorker with a background in art—she was Project Manager for artist Takashi Murakami before becoming Director of Private Dining for Daniel Boulud. Yuen, who comes from Canada, worked with Boulud in Singapore as Executive Sous Chef at DB Bistro before moving to New York City. Now, they are celebrating their fifth anniversary of Bessou. They not only survived the pandemic but thrived; they both became new moms and welcomed daughters less than a month apart.
“Bessou means holiday home or vacation home in Japanese. It also means home away from home,” Kyogoku told me. “And there are a lot of meanings behind that. I wanted to create a space where people could really feel like it was an extension of their home. I grew up in New York and I miss all of the wonderful restaurants that were around that used to make me feel that way. I feel like there are less and less of those types of places and that was one of my dreams, to have a restaurant that could be that kind of place for someone else.”
EMILY YUEN: BROOKLYN
Emily and I spent the afternoon in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
MCGOLRICK PARK FARMERS MARKET
Msgr. McGolrick Park, Brooklyn
“I come to McGolrick Park if I need a walk and some inspiration. I don't go to the farmers market with anything in mind, I start by finding one ingredient that looks good or is in season and go from there. For fresh vegetables and fruits, I go to The Brooklyn Grange. My friend is the founder of it, and of course I love supporting my friends, and good products. I also really like to go to Mama Lam's. They make Malaysian curry paste, hot sauces—I cook whatever leftovers I have in the fridge with that curry paste.”
PETER PAN DONUT & PASTRY SHOP
727 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn
“Peter Pan is a really old school donut shop that's been around forever. My favorite donut is either the chocolate glaze or the original glazed cruller. I tried making a french cruller at home recently and it was much harder than I thought to get it right! I’m not a fan of heavy donuts—and at Peter Pans I feel like everything is light (even though it’s still definitely not healthy). If you have time and there’s room, it’s fun to sit at the bar. It's a really good place to people watch and hear the neighborhood gossip.”
614 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn
“I go to Bao Burg whenever I am craving solid Asian food, and it was my go-to spot to order from during the pandemic. Their menu has Thai, Singaporean, Malaysian, Vietnamese dishes—a little bit of everything—and they do it all really well. Today I got a lava bao, which is also called an egg yolk bao because it's a steam bun filled with sweet and salted egg yolk cream custard. Also a Roti Canai with a coconut curry on the side, plus grandma's chicken over rice.” ♦
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