In part, because her friends—who believed she was a great cook— persuaded her. And in part, because of the dramatic turn of events on September 11, 2001.
Several years ago Korean-born Myong was teaching cooking classes to her fellow moms eager to learn from their talented friend. Her final class—Jewish Cooking, focused on the Rosh Hoshanna holiday—was to be held on September 11. It never took place, nor did the culinary classes continue after that fateful day.
Instead, Myong began making and selling jarred soups and sauces. At first she sold these products at her children’s school fairs. She quickly gained a following and demand grew for her products.
Then people began telling her that she should open up a restaurant.
She started preparing food for the café at the now defunct Women For Fitness health club in Katonah. Because the café had no kitchen, Myong had to transport all the provisions from her home. She grew tired of "schlepping everything," and opened her take-out cafe, Myong Private Label Gourmet.
Through that shop, her customer base enlarged, and the business quickly outgrew the small space. Her lease expired and she began looking at new possibilities.
Now, Myong has a full-service restaurant in Mt. Kisco and a thriving catering and takeout business. She collaborates with her new executive chef, Ryan Paonessa, on their eclectic menu that often highlights Myong’s Asian heritage.
The menu features bold flavors that are also sensitive to health-conscious diners. Those intolerant to gluten would eat quite well here. The restaurant décor is eye-catching too, with a striking red wall behind the counter and colorful canvases painted by Myong lining the neutral dining room walls.
M.H. Reed declared Myong’s food “delicious” in her New York Times review last month. I found the adjective apropos as I dug into my tender and flavorful miso-glazed cod with sautéed shitake, braised bok choy and forbidden rice that Chef Ryan prepared for me to photograph.
Patch Q & A with Myong
Patch: Who, or what, inspired you to become a chef?
MF: I have to say… my friends.
Patch: How would you describe your style of cooking?
Patch: What's your favorite unconventional ingredient as of late?
MF: Tumeric root. I use it in salads. Sometimes I eat it with ice cream… delicious!
Patch: What would be your requested “last meal?”
MF: Kimchee. When you are Korean and you crave kimchee, there is no other replacement.
Patch: When not cooking, what activity tickles your fancy?
MF: I paint. If I’m not painting, I garden or sew.
Patch: Tell me about your perfect night out.
MYONG: My perfect night out would be going to a Broadway show and dinner in the city.
PATCH: What current food trend turns you off?
MF: That fusion stuff – Pan-Asian – turns me off. I like the word “progression”, but I don’t like the loose term “fusion.” It’s more complicated than that.
Patch: Is there any sustenance in the world you would refuse to eat?
MF: Little bugs? Maybe snakes?! Although crickets – fried crickets – are delicious! But definitely not snakes. Ew.
Patch: Are there any local eateries that you frequent?