Jennifer Kim was just gonna let things ripen. “Sometimes you gotta sit and let shit get good,” the chef told me just days before she closed her restaurant two and a half years ago. “Let it do what it needs to do to turn into something else.”
Kim wasn’t exactly talking about her own future after the closing of her acclaimed Korean-Italian Passerotto, though she might as well have been. She was instead referring to the pantry full of vinegars, pickles, syrups, and other assorted ferments she’d put up in her apartment pantry during the first six months of COVID. Plenty of those have been released into the pop-up wilderness over time—though lately not so much. Kim’s been busy teaching fine dining to the kids at Kendall College and, via AltEconomy, organizing mutual aid continuing education for industry workers and microbusinesses.
She’s slowed her once prodigious pop-up output, but the inexorable sugar conversions of Lactobacillus cannot be stopped—unless they’re eaten, that is. So the time is nigh for Kim’s Frenchie Liquid Funk Fermentation Bistro at the next Monday Night Foodball, the Reader’s weekly chef pop-up at Ludlow Liquors.
In 2014 you could say Kim’s shit had just started to get good. She’d just come off three years on the line at Blackbird to spend a summer in the south of France, mostly cooking at the Michelin-starred Bistro de Saveurs in Castres. “My day-to-day at the restaurant was interesting and challenging, but overall, I was extremely lonely during my time in France,” she says. “When I think back on that younger version of myself and how unhappy I was living and working in that picturesque village, the me of here-and-now wants to reconnect and rebuild those memories through food. Comfort and nurture through food. If these two parts of my past and present could cook a meal together, what would that look like? Would the past version look at where we ended up almost a decade later and find relief? Joy? Connection? I’d like to think that lonely young cook working wistfully as they counted down the days until they were back stateside would find deep hopefulness and anticipation. That she would find permission to explore and shape herself outside of societal and professional standards.”
So how does the Kim-of-then and the Kim-of here-and-now cook? She’ll start with a Lyonnaise-type salad of cured Catalpa Farms lamb belly lardons with red plum, pickled apricot, and chestnut miso. She’s working on a potato pave with white asparagus soubise, pickled asparagus spears, and kombu oil (“Think cheese fries,” she says).
There will be brie, swaddled in duck fat puff pastry with maple kombucha syrup, poached pear, and black apricot; and a showstopping duck a l’orange, “a la Sun Wah”: dry-aged breast and confit leg with cara cara orange miso, calamansi vinegar, and pillowy steamed bao to deliver it all to your mouth.
Les desserts: crunchy cookie puffs piped with fermented rhubarb mousse; and Kim’s diabolical subversion of the classic Ferrero Rocher bonbon: hazelnut-crusted chocolate ganache orbs filled with foie gras mousse.
Kim’s return to Foodball is dine-in only, mes amis—and first-come first-served starting at 5:30 PM, Monday, April 24. So have a seat and investigate Joel’s natural wine pairings, or the French 75 riff he’s working on with hard kombucha and Kim’s fermented chamomile syrup.
“I’m excited to cook and share in this menu because it’s an opportunity to reflect on the ways this industry has changed me—from then until now,” says Kim. “As well as how I have changed the way I choose to interact with the industry.”
Meanwhile, look upon a summer’s worth of Monday Night Foodball: