After two years, recognition from the Michelin Guide and a glowing review from the Los Angeles Times, modern Korean restaurant Kinn will close this week, with its chef-owner emphasizing the importance of mental health in the restaurant industry.
“I think our products are often undervalued, we have to compromise,” said Kiyong “Ki” Kim, who announced Kinn’s closure last Friday. “Whether it’s quality of life, finances or sleep times, we need to keep our guests and customers happy rather than ensuring we stay healthy. It adds up.”
The Koreatown restaurant is scheduled to close Saturday. Kim said he has lost about 20 pounds in the last few weeks due to stress and anxiety. As a chef, he describes critical praise and satisfied customers as “addictive,” which means the chef workforce rarely prioritizes itself.
Before opening Kinn, Kim co-founded Korean pop-up Naemo in Los Angeles and worked at Benu in San Francisco and Jungsik and Atomix in New York City. The 20-seat Chin, his first restaurant, is a collaboration with In Hospitality Group — which also operates Koreatown fried chicken shop Chimmelier — and opened in November 2021 with a la carte offerings but quickly converted to a tasting menu.
The five courses expanded to seven and included dishes such as the signature Slow Braised Crispy Octopus, Kimchi Stuffed Charred Little Gems, Peach Glazed Bulgogi and Burrata Salad with Tomato and Perilla, evolving each season.
Earlier this year, the Michelin Guide, a global food compendium, added Kinn as a new and notable restaurant to its list in California. “Whether in the preparation or presentation of the dishes, the chef and his team ensure an exclusive experience,” said the guide.
Michelin also included Kinn in its guide to the best Korean restaurants in Los Angeles.
In May: LA Times food critic Bill Addison called chin “One of the freshest culinary voices in Los Angeles,” described Kim as “masterful,” pondering whether the restaurant could be the future of fine dining in the city.
Even though the restaurant is closed, Kinn will still perform this year LA Times 101 List event in December. 5. The restaurant was originally scheduled to appear on the list, which will be announced that evening, but Times restaurant critic Bill Addison swapped chin for another entry when he heard the news. “In order to make the list as current and helpful as possible to readers, she will not be on the list,” Addison said. “We are pleased to continue to welcome him and recognize the great work he has done in the food department.”
“This will be our finale,” Kim said.
Financial and spatial constraints
The premise of offering an ambitious seven-course tasting menu at an affordable price – $95 per person – also proved difficult for the team, as they did not always exceed the threshold of required sales on a given evening. Kim noted that his worries about the restaurant’s future began in April because seating for guests was inconsistent and the chef had to make compromises due to the restaurant’s financial and space constraints.
As the months went by, Kim’s mental health deteriorated, particularly after he alerted staff to the impending end last month.
A professional chef regularly appears on lists of the most stressful jobs, including the No. 1 job at recruiting firm Zippia earlier this year due to long hours, low job security and managing people in addition to cooking. According to a current survey According to cooking experience website Cozymeal, 70% of chefs who took part in the survey were afraid of working in a restaurant, while many also suffered from sleep problems, depression and substance abuse.
There are several nonprofits and other support organizations that help service professionals combat depression and addiction, including Restaurant After Hours, Focus on Health, A Balanced Glass, and Healthy Hospo.
“Unfortunately we had to close Chin because of him [Kim’s] Health issue,” Dustin Dong Hyuk Lee, partner at In Hospitality Group, told The Times in an email. “It’s very sad, but I’m sure he’ll come back stronger than ever!”
The outpouring of support has come as a shock to the team since the announcement last Friday, with reservations for this week now fully booked, the chef said.
“We are very, very grateful,” Kim said. “Following our announcement, we have already seen a lot of familiar faces and everyone is coming forward. I didn’t know there were so many people who care about us. It was very emotional.”
The restaurant’s closure has helped Kim find new camaraderie with other chefs who have struggled to convey empathy after closing restaurants themselves, and said the experience helped him be more empathetic in turn.
“I’m very hopeful now and trying to be as mentally strong as possible,” he said.
Who hopes to stay in LA after Kinn’s closure and ideally cook somewhere else before opening his own restaurant again one day.
“I really want to focus on the present moment, but I’m really excited about the future. “I feel like the future is very bright – and it’s even brighter than Kinn’s heyday.”