Jinhee Lee’s love of cooking wasn’t exactly fostered by her parents growing up in South Korea; she spent 11 years working as a kindergarten teacher before moving to Canada and secretly enrolling at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in the Professional Cooking program. Now she’s a force to be reckoned with as the executive chef at Foreign Concept, and is ready to prove she’s a top competitor across the country.
For the past two years Jinhee took the top prize in Gold Medal Plates, and in 2016 she was also named one of Avenue Calgary’s “Top 5 people to watch in Calgary’s food scene.” With credentials like that, Jinhee certainly knows where to grab some delicious eats; here are her top Calgary restaurants where she loves to eat.
Pan-Asian cuisine with an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients and modern cooking techniques is apparent throughout the menu at this Calgary hotspot, which features items like Angus beef striploin tataki and charsiu pork & foie gras steamed buns.
“[The restaurant features] fresh, clean and bright flavours,” says Jinhee, noting that her favourite dish is Alberta trout cha ca la vong. “I love the marriage between the Asian flavours and Canadian ingredients.”
Chef and owner Roy Oh puts an emphasis on bold Korean flavours with a modern twist on this expansive tapas menu with items like the clayot black cod and his KFC sliders. Anju, a Korean term that translates into “food you eat with alcohol,” is all about sharing a great meal with good friends and frosty drinks.
“[There’s] bold Korean flavours and good soju,” Jinhee raves. In particular, she’s a big fan of the crispy tofu and kimchi. “I love the crispy texture of tofu and tasty fried kimchi and pork belly. [It] makes me thirsty for soju!”
When you think of quality, expertly prepared cuts of meat, Top Chef Canada: All-Stars competitor Connie DeSousa certainly stands out. As the co-chef and co-owner of this rustic, award-winning establishment, she’s proving that seasonal menus and in-house butchered meats are where it’s at.
“[Charcut has] good quality meats and charcuterie,” says Jinhee. “They make the best pig’s head mortadella.”
The self-professed methodology of this contemporary eatery is to “buy the best ingredients we can afford and try not to screw them up before they hit the plate.” The strategy seems to be working, given how popular Model Milk’s rotating menu of Canadian-sourced and inspired dishes seems to be.
“[There is] great ambience and room,” says Jinhee. “I love the Sunday Supper; they create menus with different cuisines every week.”
An orchard-wood-burning grill and oven sit in the heart of this kitchen, where chefs roll out a variety of items based on fresh produce and locally-sourced ingredients from Canadian farmers and ranchers. That’s probably why the tasting menu—Jinhee’s favourite selection when frequenting the joint—is so popular.
“[River Café makes] great use of local and sustainable ingredients,” she says. “[There are many] creative dishes.”