Can you tell us a little about yourself, where you grew up, etc?
I was born in Busan, grew up in Anyang. Growing up surrounded by food loving family. I always loved food way more than usual kids. I went to Dankook Univ. in Hannam-dong, which used to be really close from Itaewon. So I would love going there, trying new food when I have no class [or] after class.
I went to The States briefly [for] about 1 year to learn English. New York City and Portland, Oregon. It influenced me a lot, two cities being very culturally diverse. And I got to meet [a] lot of friends from different parts of the world.
I went to travel Mexico; loved the culture and food. Got the usual office job and quit and went to Mexico, opened VG.
Tell us a little about your restaurant.
Villa Guerrero is a taqueria, and taqueria is translated into English as ‘taco place’. So we sell tacos. Michoacan style carnitas tacos are our signature. We cook pork skin, shoulder, stomach, and tongue in Mexican fashion, we house-make our Mexican chorizo, too. We try to strive [to] make tacos that can be considered ‘good’ and ‘great’ for Mexicans and in native Mexico, not only for Koreans.
How did you become a serious Mexican food lover?
I am a serious food nerd and Latin/Mexican culture nerd, too. Like those who like Japanese culture. It just naturally came, I had lots of Latino friends and my best friend, who was Mexican, invited me to their town. I stayed there and fell in love with the food and the culture, [but] more than anything, the people. They are great. Shout out to Los Chipilingos and Los Arizmendis. o being food nerd and latin nerd, putting [it] together, there you have a fat Korean taquero.
What’s the best taco you’ve ever eaten in your life?
TOUGH QUESTION, there are just so many great tacos in Mexico, different level stuff. But [the] first thing come in my mind is my man Gerald’s tacos in Villa Guerrero; him and his father make ridiculously good lamb tacos. They butcher the animals themselves, too. My man Carlos from Tamaulipas, northern Mexico. He makes some serious grilled Arrachera (skirt steak) and salsa borracha (beer salsa) to accompany the steak, too.
If you could have dinner with any three people, living or dead, who would they be and why?
- My late uncle: he passed away while I was in Mexico. He and I were close and I could not be there with him physically. He did not get to try my carnitas, either. So, him. and I hope to meet my late grandpa [at] the table when I meet him too. Haha.
- My grandpa in Busan: He is old and not as healthy as before. And I haven’t seen him for a while since I have been busy (total excuse), recently. When I was little and in Busan he always took me to Chinatown, fish market, and let me try things. And he would travel to Europe and the US and [came] back with a lot of stuff like cheese and bread [and] stuff [and] kinda educated me with those… and it helped me growing up loving food. I gotta love him back with some good food.
- An Jung-geun : Korean independence activist, he died fighting for my country’s independence and is the man. Original Korean badass. [I] got a feeling he would have liked my tacos. Fueling him up with my well greased pork tacos.
What would be on the table for your last meal?
Oh, I hope I am with my grandsons for my last meal, so whatever they like. Just like my grandpas. But they would like some good tortillas if they are really my grandsons. Hahaha.
What foods or restaurants are on your food bucket list?
I really want to travel to the Middle East for the food. I love the food and want to try [the] original for like 3 months straight. Possibly Lebanon, since some significant Mexican tacos are influenced by the immigrants, too. The way they handle certain ingredients is so amazing, unique, and interesting, too, that I wanna witness. [And] I really want to go to [both] Argentina and Brazil.
What was your favorite food when you were a kid?
Sausage, I would save up my money and buy a big bag of sausage for myself from supermarkets, when I was like 10-11 years. Weirdo.
Where do you go for late night eats after the restaurant closes?
Brooklyn The Burger Joint Garosu-gil. The owner is someone I consider a mentor when it comes to [the] restaurant biz, someone I look up to. Having the best burgers and words of wisdom at the same time from Seoul’s Hamburger Kingpin, can’t go wrong. [On] these meet ups [we’re] often joined by Maddux Shin, the owner of the rising Maddux Piazza. I go to 김밥천국 a lot, too.
What are some of your favourite restaurants in Seoul?
Maddux pizza. Brooklyn The Burger Joint. Pizza iconic. Not a restaurant but Chinatown, Daerim-dong neighborhood.
What’s the best thing your mom made for you growing up?
My mom’s rice balls, and the recipe came from my mom’s mom. These always stood out amongst my friends’ normal gimbap in my childhood. I thought it was invented by my family. Now I know Arancini is Italian. Bummed a little bit, haha.
What food can you absolutely not eat?
I wanna know, too. So far, none.
Do you cook for yourself at home? If so, what’s your go-to dish(es) to cook up?
I usually cook for my pops. They like pasta, so I would like making some pasta with whatever’s seasonal. Also I bring some chorizo home and make some eggs with chorizo scramble sandwiches. I make falafels [from] time to time for friends, too.