At Joe Kwon’s dinner party, not one, but three seasoned cooks gathered together in the kitchen. Kwon, cellist for the Avett brothers, and his mother “Mama Kwon” prepared a traditional Korean dish called Japchae, which is sweet potato vermicelli noodles, with blanched spinach, stir-fried beef, wood ear mushrooms, carrots and onion.
Among the guests joining them for the meal was Raleigh local and James Beard Award-winning chef Ashley Christensen, who Joe met when he first moved to Raleigh.
“Joe and I talk about food all the time, and he always speaks of his mother’s food,” Christensen said, “so to be sitting here and to have the meals that you know Joe ate growing up. . .I think in a restaurant what I might try to do, or any other chef, is to share the emotion of all these traditions through the ways that we experience them firsthand.”
Kwon, his mother and Christensen share an understanding that food, rooted in tradition, can bring people together. Kwon grew up cooking with his mother, and experiencing her traditions. And Kwon and Christensen have bonded over the Southern cuisine tradition, and the different ways it can be prepared.
Christensen in particular is a modern Southern cooking pioneer with several popular Raleigh restaurants including Poole’s Diner and Beasley’s Chicken + Honey. For those who want to try out her spin on traditional Southern cooking, her new cookbook “Poole’s: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner” comes out Sept. 20.