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Meet Joe An of Bibigo Kitchen in Mission Valley

Today we’d like to introduce you to Joe An.

Joe An is the CEO of Bibigo Kitchen, a new craft-casual restaurant concept with a menu of chef-driven, Korean-inspired dishes. With over 16 years of hospitality industry experience, An is ready to bring a new type of cuisine to Southern California.

Originally from South Korea, is a passion for Korean food started at a young age. Upon moving to the United States in 2001, he kept his early experiences close to his heart, choosing to pursue a career in hospitality. After graduating from the University of Nevada Las Vegas in 2004 with a degree in hotel Administration, An was eager to explore the restaurant side of the business. He started his career as General Manager of Todai USA, a seafood and sushi restaurant in Seattle, before moving to Los Angeles in 2011 to work for CJ Corporation, a South Korean based holding company that oversees multiple restaurants and food brands. Here, An worked his way up from Sr. Operations Coordinator to CEO of Bibigo International in 2017, a CJ-owned global brand that brings Korean-inspired culinary experiences to people all over the world. Now, under the leadership of An, the company has introduced its latest venture: Bibigo Kitchen.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
As a immigrant, some of the toughest challenges I faced early on was isolation and loneliness. But it was very important for me not to lose my core identity and heritage along the way. Paralleling my experiences in the restaurant industry, it was not only important for the food to taste excellent but also to be an ambassador of Korean Culture, acting as a bridge to unite people of different backgrounds with Korean Food.

Please tell us about your business.
In Bibigo Kitchen, we’ve step to bring Korean cuisine mainstays such as BBQ, Korean Fried Chicken, Kimchi Fried Rice and Bibimbap to the plate in a deconstructed manner so that our guests can appreciate and understand each of the ingredients, we call our approach “Modern Korean”. We try to cultivate a unique dining experience by simultaneously introducing new guests to Korean cuisine while delighting those already familiar with creative and bold new flavors.

Also, we aim to spread awareness of Korean culinary culture and inspire diners to emulate flavors and ingredients combinations for themselves even at home.

The centerpiece of Bibigo Kitchen is the Korean BBQ prepared grill items, available on a plate of a sizzling hot stone bowl, featuring main proteins such as the Galbi, Short Ribs made with Certified Angus Beef: Bibigo Beef Bulgogi traditionally prepared with mushrooms, various vegetables and marinated in Bibigo’s proprietary Bulgogi sauce; and the Crispy Pork Belly prepared sous-vide style allowing the pork to remain crispy, yet juicy on the inside and drizzled with Gochujang Aioli sauce for an extra kick of flavor.

All grill items come with a choice of a savory base and a fresh salad. Based include options like the Seaweed Rice, seasoned rice covered with umami seaweed specks. Salad options include Seasonal Fruit Kimchi, a refreshing and tart kimchi salad with seasonally rotating fresh fruits.

Chef Special entrees include signature Bibigo Kitchen dishes like the Seoul Bibimbap, an iconic Korean dish traditionally prepared with Beef Bulgogi, microgreens, assorted vegetables and a sous-vide egg, topped off with a house-made chili soy sauce; and the marquee BBQ Platter featuring a plethora of barbequed meats like Short Rib, Bulgogi Beef and Fried Chicken, meant to be shared with two to three people.

Bibigo Kitchen also features a selection of vegetarian options such as the Vegan Dduk Galbi, made with plant-based patty, black beans, corn and spices and finished with a soy gochujang sauce; Japchae Glass Noodles with mushrooms and assorted vegetables; and the Vegetable Mandu made with tofu, cabbage, celery and carrot.

In addition to the robust food program, Bibigo Kitchen also offers a thoughtfully curated selection of Korean twists on classic cocktails and innovative soju-based creations such as Soju Sunrise and Boozy Aloe Soju. For those not looking to imbibe, look no further than Bibigo Kitchen’s premium tea menu that features creative creations such as Omija Berry Blush, Turmeric Mango, Tiger Milk Tea and Butterfly Pea Coconut Boba.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Spending time, traveling and eating with friends in Korea. Also, all kinds of memories with my parents.

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