Chefs Love Seaweed: An Interview with JP Park

Ellia and JP Park

At Terratela we are proud to have so many supporters in the culinary community. Much of the inspiration for how we produce our sustainable fashion comes from the way chefs create delicious dishes working with unique ingredients. We are inspired by the traceability and sustainability in high-end dining and want to replicate this approach with the food fibers we use in our T-shirts.

One of our first supporters is JP Park from the award-winning Atomix and NARO restaurants in our hometown of New York. JP and his partner, Ellia Park, helped us launch Terratela with an amazing dinner on Earth Day, and we love that Korean cuisine relies heavily on the use of seaweed, aligning perfectly with our first SeaFibe™ T-shirt which is made using regenerative seaweed from Iceland.

For this week’s blog, we caught up with JP to discuss the use of seaweed in the kitchen, his earliest memories of the ingredient, and his first impressions of our seaweed T-shirt.

What’s your first memory of tasting seaweed?

JP Park: “Haecho, which translates directly to sea vegetables, refers to the wide and varied category of 'seaweed' in English. Haecho has long been a staple ingredient used in Hansik, traditional Korean cuisine. To many Korean chefs and home cooks alike, it is a very familiar ingredient.”

“I do not have a stark memory of when I first tasted seaweed or gim, roasted green laver, as it is such a common combination that begins in childhood. Gim is one of the most popular and familiar accompaniments to any meal in Korean cuisine. Even babies - as young as one-year-old - often enjoy plain rice and gim as a normal meal.”

Naro Dish with seaweed
Korean coastline

Why is seaweed such a pivotal ingredient in Korean cuisine?

JP Park: “Korea is a peninsula nation that is surrounded on all three sides by the sea. Due to its natural geology, it is also a very mountainous country, which historically posed challenges in easy trade of ingredients or field farming. Thus, the sea was a vital source of ingredients, ranging from its fish, shellfish, sea vegetables, and more.”

“Korea has a very distinct four seasons – different ingredients are harvested from the sea. In the winter, when the harsh weather conditions do not allow for abundant fishing, sea vegetables become a vital ingredient for Koreans. The high nutritional value of sea vegetables makes it an important ingredient for the health and well-being of Koreans throughout winter.”

What’s your favorite way to use seaweed?

JP Park: “One of my favorite banchan, as long as I can remember from childhood, is the classic roasted gim. Perfectly cooked white rice wrapped in a well-seasoned, well-roasted gim; it is a perfect bite on its own. Even to this day, my favorite preparation of seaweed is in the form of the classic, roasted Korean gim.”

A very cute red panda making a cute face
JP Close picture with Terratela t-shirt

What do you think of Terratela’s SeaFibe™ T-Shirt?/ Were you surprised by a material made from seaweed?

JP Park: “I was taken aback when I first felt the texture of Terratela’s SeaFibe™ T-shirt. It had the soft, fluid texture of silk but also had the warmth and comfort of a well-worn, high-quality cotton. It was a new revelation that seaweed could be used in this innovative form, especially outside of cuisine.”

If you could only use one seaweed-based recipe, what would it be and why?

JP Park: “If I were to have to utilize only one form of seaweed-based recipe, I would choose gim puree. Gim puree, made from well-roasted gim and sesame oil, makes a great sauce to simply season cooked rice, as well as an excellent base for a variety of sauces."

Photo Credits: Giraldo Aires, Evan Sung.

Naro dish