By Andy Wang
Yong and Ted Kim are the brothers behind Seoul Sausage, a Korean-American restaurant/catering/food service company in Los Angeles. The Kims, who won Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race in 2012 and competed on The Great Food Truck Race: All Stars in 2021, operate The Window at Seoul Sausage in Echo Park while also focusing on Goldbelly nationwide delivery and cooking at high-profile stadium events. One recent highlight was serving their Korean fried chicken during the Kanye West/Drake show at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on December 9, 2021.
YONG KIM: When we were filming The Great Food Truck Race: All-Stars, this was right when we were getting back to just being alive. At that time, we had only one or maybe two employees. We were dark for about four or five months during the pandemic and were getting back into the rhythm, and that’s when we got cast to go on the show. And I remember it was the finale episode, and we were in front of Tyler Florence’s Wayfare Tavern, and he’s like, “This is that signature dish moment.”
All of a sudden, Ted gets a call. And then I get a call, and so I was like, “Okay, this is something serious.” During a break, I call our manager back, and he’s like, “Hey, our cargo van is stolen.” So during the 10-minute break, we were trying to figure out, “Are we going to call the cops?”
TED: Go through the insurance?
YONG: We were just making all these frantic phone calls. And I just remember thinking, “What the hell is going on?”
TED: Obviously, we’re focused on trying to win The Great Food Truck Race: All-Stars, and then we’re just trying to problem-solve at the same time.
YONG: As a business owner, you’ve got to juggle multiple things at once, put on a face, act like nothing’s wrong. We figured it out. I came back a week later, filed a police report, and found the van in the junkyard. It’s just a little glimpse of what you have to deal with.
Since the pandemic, our business has shifted a lot. We added a whole new sector of our business, which is food service. We manufacture our own chicken and sausages and sauces, and we’re delivering to stadiums, to restaurants. I check in with our inventory and play delivery boy a lot.
I can’t imagine one owner doing all of this. Luckily, I have a brother to split the duties with.
TED: Every day’s different. And we have our hands dipped in so many things. The pandemic really just shook us up and reminded us of what actually pays the bills and what we actually enjoy doing.
I’ve always been a morning person, so I usually get up around 5, 6 a.m. and check my emails to see how many Goldbelly orders we have to fulfill. We’ve been doing Seoul Sausage for 10 years, and our business is very different than when we first started. We’ve matured. And I think the biggest difference now from 10 years ago is we’ve just kind of found our true identity and our voice, and we don’t like dealing with a lot of bullshit. We just do things that make sense to us.
We open our Window at 11 a.m., so we try to get our Goldbelly orders done before then. Then we’re just racing to get the Window open and cleaning the patio.
YONG: Interspersed with mundane activities, we take really cool meetings. We’ll go out and do a meeting at the LA Galaxy stadium. We’ll have meetings with a marketing opportunity or about cool collabos that we’re going to be doing, or a T-shirt launch, or going to work the Kanye concert or a NASCAR event. Where we can be creative and really flex is with all these new opportunities and events.
TED: So, Yong, I’ll say all the mundane stuff, and you can say all the fun stuff, okay? The day before going into the Coliseum for Kanye, we’ve got to do a lot of prep work, obviously. There’s a lot of admin duties. Luckily, we have a very amazing staff that picks up a lot of our slack. And we have these checklists that we’ve built in the last 10 years. So they’ll just go through all the products that they need to prepare the day before, and not just including the food. We have to bring mixing bowls, tongs, fryer oil. We have to figure out how to get our fryers back into the Coliseum. And then this Kanye concert came up very quickly, so it wasn’t something that we were planning for months in advance.
We’ve got to do a lot of manual movement of our kitchen equipment—chafing frames, Sternos, things that you could easily miss on the day of—so we try to get all that stuff prepared. But before that, we have to calculate how much do we think we’re going to sell that day? How many fried chicken batches do we need to bring? And luckily, we’re at a place where we’re able to produce a lot of our products beforehand, but we still have to make sauces, cut green onions, and have a lot of the condiments ready.
When you’re doing these constant events, it’s just all about speed and how many plates we can get out as quickly as possible. So being organized and ready for it is extremely important. I remember driving to the Coliseum the day before the concert. They were so behind schedule with everything, and we went to go pick up the wristbands for our staffers at like 4 p.m. The Coliseum staff was like, “Kanye’s not even here.” So they’re dealing with their own problems. We’re dealing with ours.
YONG: Wasn’t he sleeping?
TED: Yeah, they said the first thing he was going to do when he got to the Coliseum was take a nap, so he got a room in the Coliseum. He pretty much sound-checked an hour before the doors opened the next day. When push came to shove, Kanye went on the stage, and everybody was pumping out food during the concert. And it was pretty amazing.
We had catering orders the day before and the day after the Kanye concert. So we set up an early crew and a later crew because we had a 200-person or 300-person Netflix catering event the next day. And I needed certain members of the team to have enough rest, so that we could execute that event the next day. So within that three-day period, we were doing catering. And then right after the catering went out, we were starting to get organized for Kanye. And then the next day, Kanye took over the whole day. We had a skeleton crew running the Window at Seoul Sausage and also preparing for the next day’s catering event.
And I remember the next day, even though I left the concert late, I got back in the kitchen at 6 a.m. to get that crew ready for the catering pickup at like 11 a.m. So those three days were extremely crazy. And sometimes the staff that we have for these shows, they get all happy because, “I’m going to go work the Kanye West event.” But it’s hard, man. Our staff, they’re lifting heavy boxes. We’re moving fryers, moving oil. And by the time the end of the day hits, we’re just kind of like, “I don’t even want to go watch the show. I want to go home.”
It was crazy because I remember the doors for the concert were supposed to open at 6 p.m.. So we had food ready by 5:30. But Kanye didn’t hit the stage until like 9:30, 9:45. So for four hours, we were able to just sell food with no music.
YONG: It goes by really fast. I was the later crew that had to clean up and whatnot. Sometimes, I feel like we’re production managers. We’re producing this big event, and there’s so many moving pieces, and a lot of times that’s not the glamorous part of owning a food business, right? But the show must go on. And so sometimes, you find yourself doing the most mundane random jobs, getting lunch for your staff, getting wristbands. These are the things that you’ve got to do to get the show running. And obviously, we have a lot of experience doing this. But that Kanye concert, I think it’s the most we’ve ever done at LA Memorial Coliseum. And it’s because Kanye was late. He stalled it, so people were getting hungry and drinking. That was a good event.
TED: I’m a huge Kanye West fan, but I didn’t see a single song of the concert. Zero. When we were working, it was just like boom, boom, boom, just the bass rumbling the whole time. My friend, she left a little early, and she’s like, “Hey, these are VIP tickets, front row. Go enjoy yourself.” And I remember I was heading home and was like, “Should I go watch one song? Or should I go home?” I went home. I did catch the show on Amazon later, and it was an amazing show and I was like, “I can’t believe we were there. That’s pretty legendary.”