We had the good fortune of connecting with Gavin Lee and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Gavin, what makes you happy? Why?
I am overall a positive guy, but there are two things that make me genuinely happy. First thing that makes me happy is overcoming adversity, a crisis or a challenge. Happiness, in my opinion, is what comes after wrestling with stress. Happiness does not appear on its own, but when we make a breakthrough out of the crisis, happiness comes like a warm strand of light at the end of the stormy tunnel. Ironically, we need a certain degree of healthy stress in order to appreciate happiness. If there’s no stress, then that means there’s nothing to overcome, or to accomplish in order to upgrade to the next level of maturity or greatness. Second thing that makes me happy is enjoying good company and valuing relationships. I would like to say that I’m quite careful in making friends and sometimes it takes me months, even years, to trust and be really open with someone. However, once I start to trust them, I am loyal. I give them everything I have to be there for them. One of my biggest dreams is to achieve success in life together with these amazing groups of friends who I love and respect. I feel alive when I get to share constructive thoughts and joyful moments with them and just by thinking about us growing together, makes me very happy.
What should our readers know about your business?
We had a very humble beginning. We are a cafeteria inside of an office building, and like others in the restaurant industry, COVID-19 hit us HARD. We signed the lease for the cafeteria without knowing that it was exactly a week before the quarantine lockdown had started. Without having any choices, we chose to close the cafeteria for two full months because the office building decided to ask their employees to work remotely. It was one of the darkest moments where we saw no light. Then, instead of passively waiting for the patrons to return back to the office, we decided to take the proactive measure and started to create opportunities ourselves. We loaded our van with kitchen equipment, tables, tents, cooking utensils and several coolers filled with food, and started cooking Korean Fusion dishes in and around Metro Atlanta. My wife and I are both from South Korea, so we wanted to bring the authentic Korean experience to those who’ve never tried Korean food, or to those who reminisce Korean food. We worked hard to create authentic Korean recipes that’ll be well received by American palate but also authentic recipes that will make us proud as Koreans. We specialize our menu with Bulgogi Beef rice bowls and bulgogi quesadillas, also we introduced a few Korean street dishes on the menu, such So-Dduk Skewers (rice cake skewers) or Pork Belly Tacos with Kimchi Slaws, to add some fun to our menu. While it can be stressful sometimes to work seven days a week to make ends meet, I am proud of my team, and myself for coming this far. I learned that the world could throw a lemon at you at times, but it’s up to me to make lemonade out of it. If there’s a will, there’s a way. Crisis can be an opportunity, opportunity is a path to growth.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I moved to Atlanta to live with my wife Chloe a couple years ago. She introduced me to so many exciting places in Atlanta, and it took me little to no effort to really appreciate the city. Atlanta has an eclectic mixture of different cultures. If you drive up for about two hours to Dahlonega GA, you get to visit the beautiful winery, like Montaluce Winery to enjoy a glass of wine in nature. This place is particularly near and dear to my heart since our wedding ceremony is scheduled here later in the year. Another great place to enjoy a nice glass of wine is Barcelona Wine Bar in Inman Park, Atlanta GA. Their tapas and charcuterie boards compliment the wine selection really well. On special occasions, I like to take my wife to Kevin Rathbun’s Steakhouse for their premium quality steak along with their fresh oyster plate. It might be a little tough to get reservations, so definitely remember to plan the date ahead of time. A lot of Koreans like to sing, and we are no different. We like to frequent Korean Karaoke rooms in Duluth GA to let go of our stress and really channel our inner singers out in the moment. Buford Hwy has so many ethnic cuisines and dessert spots to choose from. We particularly enjoy the Matcha Parfait from Matcha Cafe Maiko on Buford Hwy. Now, we can tell our out-of-state friends to come and visit our Sunday pop-ups at A Mano restaurant parking lot on the weekend. The pop-up restaurant culture has become a pretty big piece of the culture of Atlanta, and I am very proud that we get to contribute to this eclectic and exciting culture.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There have been so many amazing friends, mentors, neighbors, resources that helped me to jump start my business to get to where it is today. However, the one person that I want to dedicate my shoutout to today is my beautiful wife, Chloe. Chloe is a hard working, career driven woman who I admire and adore so much. She has been the anchor and at the same time compass for me when I needed the most support. She and I are very similar in some ways, but also vastly different in many other ways. Her strength is activator, while my strength is disciplinary. Her strength is ideation, while my strength is efficiency. We make a perfect team. For example, while I was struggling with the cafeteria business when COVID first happened, it was Chloe’s idea to break-through, and to begin a pop-up restaurant business on the weekends. If I’m firewood, then she’s fire starters. If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t have achieved even half of what I have today. She believed in my entrepreneurial dream from the beginning, and she still is willing to do everything she could to support us as family. She’s truly an amazing wife and a life partner.
Other: TikTok: BiteofKorea
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