The chef grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and started to work in her parent’s Asian International Market at age 4 where she learned to cook rice cakes properly, marinate meats, and chop onions.
“My parents didn’t speak English,” she says of when they immigrated to the United States from South Korea. “I would talk to all of these amazing chefs from Chicago to all over Michigan and they were always talk to me about cuisine and I just got the bug from there. I was playing with organic ingredients from my aunt’s farm in Michigan and just talking to the chefs and delivering with my father. I would see the chefs at work and I thought it was really the coolest thing, like being a rock star.”
Her journey led her to the Culinary Institute of America in New York, and on to Gotham Bar & Grill, Daniel, and Aquavit. Yi moved to London to work at the five-star The Savoy Hotel. By 2005, she came to Las Vegas to help open Wing Lei at Wynn Las Vegas. She moved on to Mix by Alain Ducasse at Mandalay Bay, and then Joël Robuchon and L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon inside the MGM Grand.
She moved to Los Angeles to work at Wally’s, the Beverly Hills wine and cheese shop frequented by A-listers such as Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Drake, and Ellen DeGeneres. In June, she returned to Las Vegas after Zarate, The Godfather of Peruvian cuisine, asked her to head up Once.
She brings her skills in Japanese cuisine and French finesse to add elaborate plating techniques to the Nikkei menu.
Beet cured salmon ceviche with coconut leche de tigre and mint oil; Peruvian fried rice with lobster, snow crab, shrimp, sausage, pancetta, and a sunny side up egg; a new plating for steak tartare; and sashimi grade yellowtail is tossed in an aji amarillo leche de tigre sauce and topped with crispy calamari are just some of the newest concoctions Yi plans to introduce on the fall menu.
Yi says she is working with Zarate on his upcoming restaurant opening in Brooklyn as well.
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