Joule: A Playful Approach to Korean Cuisine

Joule's exterior

Joule's exterior

It’s always been essential for chef-operators to find the right balance of showcasing their culinary capabilities without surpassing the comfort zones of guests. Of course, diners’ comfort zones continue to expand as more trust is invested into chefs, perhaps a byproduct of the profession’s glamorization by the media. 

“People are excited [about] having something something spicy…something fermented, excited about experiencing different cultures and different cuisine,” says Rachel Yang, the chef and owner at restaurant Joule in Seattle.

At the center of all of this, in her opinion, are Korean restaurants. Her take on modern-day Korean cuisine is highlighted at Joule, which she opened in 2007 with her husband, Seif Chirchi. 

Husband-and-wife team Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi

Husband-and-wife team Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi

“My husband and I, we both cook and we wanted to open a restaurant where we can play,” says Yang. “We wanted to create really fun food that we want to eat, [and that] we want to feed our friends and family.”

Yang was born and raised in Korea and moved to the States when she was 15 years old. Before she planted seeds in Seattle, the chef built up her industry cred in The Big Apple. “I’ve had amazing opportunities to work with some of the most awesome chefs in New York City,” she says.

Opening her own restaurant allowed for more creative control. “The food is really a reflection of who we are,” says Yang. Her husband is American, and both of them were extensively trained in French cuisine.

“The best thing about food is that there is really no limit or there’s really no boundaries…and there’s so many amazing ingredients and flavors, and techniques that you can learn and really incorporate into your cooking, and I think that’s what the food at Joule is all about,” she says.

When coming up with new dishes, Yang says it’s all about balancing flavors for each dish. “And it has to draw inspiration from all different places.” The first test is making sure a dish is tasty, of course. After tastiness, the Joule team measures an initial dish’s success by its uniqueness: “How unique is it? How different is it? How fun is it?,” says Yang.

In this “Table 42” episode, Yang takes viewers into the kitchen to whip up one of Joule’s colorful prized dishes: grilled wagyu tri-tip steak with pickled persimmon and charred treviso. “The bitterness of the treviso and the persimmon work really well with the meatiness of the steak,” notes the chef.

“Here in America, you know, you go to a steakhouse and what you get is basically steaks and french fries or something that’s really heavy,” says Yang. “But when you’re adding a lot of flavors that actually can cut the fattiness, cut the richness of the meat, I think you can enjoy it a lot better.”