Joo Won

Joo Won

Joo heeded this advice and headed straight back down to the capital. Hearing about the concept of the Michelin guide for the first time his mission soon became trying to get a job working in a restaurant with a star. Joo signed up for a nine-month course at Le Cordon Bleu but needed to find a way of financing it, so began searching for positions and quickly landed on his feet, getting a part-time job at the Michelin-starred Orrery under André Garrett. ‘André made it very clear to me that the work would be very hard,’ he explains. ‘But I worked weekends for nine months straight without a day off and I think he was quite impressed, so he eventually offered me a commis chef role and it also meant I got a visa.’ Spending three years at The Orrery, Joo developed a real grounding in classical technique learning from André, who ultimately became a mentor to him.

When the opportunity arose in 2006 for Joo to join the launch team at the Park Lane Hilton’s Galvin at Windows alongside André, he jumped at the chance to be a part of a restaurant from its conception. ‘I was so excited to work in a big hotel and to try and earn a Michelin star of our own,’ says Joo. ‘When it first opened, we worked so hard – it was almost too much and after two or three years I kept almost leaving, but then something would stop me.’ Galvin at Windows went on to win a Michelin star after just a year and Joo started to work his way up the ranks, continuing to develop his skills both as a chef but also as a manager.

This eventually culminated in him taking over as head chef from André in 2013. ‘Having that opportunity at such a young age made me so nervous,’ Joo explains. ‘But I also got such a buzz from it as it was my chance to prove myself. I could also change whatever I wanted for the first time in my career.’ Over the course of the next seven years, Joo retained the restaurant’s Michelin star and developed a close working relationship with both the Galvin brothers and general manager Fred Sirieix. It was only after a trip to Korea with Fred and Chris Galvin that led to him leaving the restaurant. ‘We went for a week just to get inspiration,’ says Joo. ‘But it completely opened my eyes and my palate. I was suddenly looking at Korean cooking in a completely different way from when I was younger. I realised I didn’t know anything about Korean cooking and I wasn’t necessarily as proud of my country’s cuisine like other chefs were.’

After well over a decade at Galvin at Windows, Joo realised that it was finally time for a change and hung up his apron in 2020. Deciding to combine his skills in classical European cookery with the flavours of Korea, he began developing dishes inspired by the flavours he remembered from his childhood, travelling back to different parts of Korea to learn whenever possible. Currently on the hunt for a site to open a restaurant of his own, Joo has been cooking his unique east-meets-west style of Korean food at pop-ups including Carousel and Soho’s Bun House to much acclaim. This once fussy eater is fast becoming one of the UK’s biggest ambassadors for the delights of Korean cuisine.