Two Layton brothers making their dream of owning a restaurant a reality with help from Spice Kitchen Incubator, a Salt Lake City non-profit.
Originally from Korea, Jung Kyu Kim came to Utah in 2009, followed by his younger brother Jung Min Kim in 2012. They each attended culinary school at Salt Lake Community College and worked at a variety of restaurants throughout the state. They also owned an AFC Sushi franchise in Ogden for two years.
Spice Kitchen Incubator is a project of the International Rescue Committee and Salt Lake County. It’s aim is to help the disadvantaged jump through all the right hoops to get a food-related business off the ground.
Although Spice Kitchen mainly serves refugees and immigrants, their resources are available to anyone who qualifies as disadvantaged. In addition to benefiting the entrepreneurs, Kate Idzorek the program manager, said Spice Kitchen brings a lot to the community.
“It provides them with an experience of another culture and it’s really exciting for people,” Idzorek said. “There is a growing foodie movement nationwide and Salt Lake is really at the center of that right now in a lot of ways.”
Entrepreneurs are selected through an application and interview process. Twice a year, the nonprofit selects about 10 new participants.
Once part of the program, Spice Kitchen works with the entrepreneurs to develop a business plan. The Kims are working on owning either a food truck or a small restaurant — they’re calling it “Ahtti” which means “best friend.”
Spice Kitchen provides a variety of resources, such as help getting required permits and food safety manager certifications, financial planning, micro loans, market access and subsidized use of a commercial kitchen.
Jung Kyu Kim said these services help him and his brother save time because they don’t have to figure out everything on their own. He also said the less expensive access to a commercial kitchen has been a huge help.
Although the brothers have not opened a storefront yet, they are already in business at least four days a week, selling some of their food items at Bountiful Farmers Market on Thursdays, at the Liberty Park Farmer’s Market on Fridays, at the Downtown Farmers Market in Salt Lake City on Saturdays and on Sundays at the Wheeler Farm Farmers Market in Murray. They also do catering.
The dishes sold at the booth include rice bowls, tacos and sandwiches made with beef or chicken. Each dish is served with Korean-style pickled cabbage and carrots, lettuce, Korean BBQ sauce and spicy Korean gochujang sauce.
Reception to their food has so far been positive, and the brothers hope to open their first storefront by the end of the year.
Idozeck said the fact the brothers owned a restaurant franchise before has given them an advantage.
“They still rely on us for certain things but they are going to move through the program very fast,” Idozek said.
Businesses can stay in the Spice Kitchen Incubator program for up as many as five years, although they are still part of the Spice Kitchen community, they are considered “graduated” when they can operate independently of the program.
Jung Min Kim said he and his brother don’t plan to stop after Ahtti. If they can grow their success, he said they hope to back to the community in kind, possibly through scholarships or donating food or money to people in need.
“This country, they gave us a chance if we worked hard,” Jung Min Kim said. “I think we need to pay back for that.”