1. Introduce yourself
My name is James Kang, and I am the Culinary Director of Asiana Hotels. My journey in Dubai started in 2010 when I was appointed Executive Chef of Asiana Hotel and spearheaded the launch of various food concepts, such as Yuraku and Sonamu, the latter being one of the first authentic Korean restaurant experiences in Dubai. I also took the opportunity to introduce Korean cuisine to other GCC countries such as Oman, Lebanon, Bahrain, Iran, and other Emirates. During EXPO 2020, I successfully showcased Korean cuisine at the Korea pavilion. In April of 2023, after a long journey and setbacks brought on by the Covid 19 pandemic, we finally launched Asiana’s second hotel, Asiana Grand, with our all-day-dining concept, Grand Gourmet at the centre of it, and where I am now Director of Culinary of both hotels.
2. What was your story of becoming Executive Chef of Asiana Grand Hotel?
My passion for the culinary world was nurtured from an early age. I started my career as a commis and gradually worked my way up from there. I believe my skills and keen sense of precision started when I was a student at Halla University in South Korea, and it was from there that my passion for cooking and the culinary arts started to emerge. Before my current role as Culinary Director at Asiana Hotels, I worked at renowned hotel brands across South Korea, including the Oriental Hotel in Jeju Island and the Hyatt Regency in Jeju Island and Incheon. Some of my best time was when I served as the Executive Sous Chef at the Hyatt Incheon, where my team catered to the prestigious Chaîne des Rôtisseurs fine dining events and VIP functions, and it was during this time when my attention to detail really came into focus. Today, Dubai is home, and I am so proud to be spearheading Asiana Hotels' culinary team across all its restaurants and bars, in-room dining, and events. To date, it has been a pleasure and a privilege to introduce Korean cuisine in all its vastness to the people of Dubai, but I am excited for this new challenge brought on by Grand Gourmet as I am now able to practice and perfect my skills on an array of over 200 dishes and multiple cuisines.
3. What is your long-term vision and mission as a chef?
To continue doing what I’m doing, to help Asiana Hotels grow from strength to strength and to continue growing as a Chef and perfecting my skills. As artists, our work is never done, and there is always room for growth and development. My priority will be to exceed guest expectations and elevate the quality of both service and cuisine.
4. How important is it for you is to support all the communities in the UAE?
When I first moved to Dubai, I realised quickly there was a huge gap where authentic Korean cuisine was concerned, so I felt like a pioneer; introducing the vastness of Korean cuisine to the people of Dubai. Initially however, our clientele was predominantly Korean and it took a while for word to spread to other communities. However, with the recent rise in K-pop culture in the region, we have seen a vast increase in nationalities at our restaurants, namely from both the local and expat Arab communities. I am excited for this to both continue and grow over time.
5. What would be your advice to young people on what is the most important factor in success in life?
To work hard, not to give up, be open to criticism, and learn from failures and mishaps. The most important advice however is to never be afraid to ask for help and to always appreciate and never underestimate the importance of team work.