Korean Home-Style Cooking Meets the Olympic Games

Alexander Hwang MBA ’12 serves more than 2,000 meals a day

By ARVIN TEMKAR, USF NEWS Posted Thu, 02/08/2018 - 13:38

For six years chef Alexander Hwang MBA ’12 and his catering company Kiss My Seoul have delivered a taste of Korea to the Bay Area. Now Hwang is taking his home-style cooking back to its origins, as part of the Winter Olympic Games.

Kiss My Seoul is catering at the International Broadcast Centre, a temporary hub for the thousands of sports journalists and TV crew members who’ve descended on PyeongChang, Korea to cover the games. Hwang’s meals — inspired by his mother’s traditional Korean recipes — serve not only hungry news reporters, camera operators, and sound engineers, but also the Olympic athletes who visit the building for interviews and tours.

“I’ve met customers from all over the world: Japan, England, Chile, Brazil,” Hwang says. “It’s really true — the Olympics brings everyone from the world together. They’re working together, and I’m feeding them.”

Major meal prep

Hwang’s rotating 10-day menu is made up of Korean classics like bulgogi (a marinated beef dish) and japchae (sweet potato noodles), as well as other Asian foods. The breakfast, lunch, and dinner courses are served buffet-style in a large cafeteria, alongside international cuisines from other caterers.  

Rather than the five kitchen staff members Hwang has back home, at the Olympics he has access to 30 full-time staff and more than 100 interns — many from Korean culinary schools. Hwang and team prepare two to three thousand meals a day for a dining room that never closes.

“The scale of production is hard to describe, even in words, or pictures, or video,” says Hwang. “It’s such a large event.”

USF roots

In the Bay Area, Kiss My Seoul’s primary clientele are tech companies, including Apple and Fitbit. Hwang had the idea for the catering business when he moved to San Francisco from Washington, D.C. for USF’s MBA program and found the city’s Korean food options — well, lacking.

“I saw an opportunity to bring high quality Korean food to the Bay Area, where there are so many foodies,” says the Los Angeles native. He considers himself spoiled by the quality of Korean cuisine in LA, which has the largest Korean population in the nation.

He started catering events while still in graduate school. He later drew on what he practiced in public speaking class to land clients, and used the interpersonal skills he learned in human resources class to manage his first employees.

“In my human resources class, we would role play as managers and employees with our classmates, and we’d laugh and think it was kind of silly,” he says. “But I knew those would be skills I’d be using.”

If all goes well in Korea, he’s hoping to head to the Summer Olympics in 2020.

It’s “the opportunity of a lifetime,” Hwang says.

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