Tell us about yourself!
My name is Esther Choi, I am the chef and owner of several restaurants in NYC. Two locations of Mokbar, a modern casual korean eatery, inside chelsea market and across from Barclays center in Brooklyn. We are opening our third location in Midtown very soon. I also have a cocktail bar, Ms.Yoo, located in the Lower East Side.
I learned to cook from my grandmother- my cooking is inspired by her old-age techniques with a combination of modern American culture. Since opening my first restaurant in 2014 at 28 years old, I have been hailed as ‘new rising chef’ by Food Republic in 2015 and was named a “Zagat 30 under 30” culinary rockstar. Mokbar was also acclaimed as the Village Voice’s 2014 “best new restaurant” and awarded “best kimchi” in 2015 by EpochTimes.
Since then, I have been a frequent judge several TV shows on The Food Network, and hosted a series of shows on Eater, and working on a few more shows to come!
How would you describe your personal style & what piece of jewelry could you live in all day?
I like to say my style is eclectic and fluid. I definitely love comfort as I am on my feet constantly on the go, but also love to get fully dolled up. During the day I am in full on chef/hustle mode, and at night i’ll get dressed up nice to host my guests at my cocktail bar Ms. Yoo.
I LOVE necklaces and earrings, as I feel i can wear it freely while cooking. I love a nice bold statement necklace (even chokers!). I am a strict GOLD jewelry gal.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
My inspiration definitely comes from the culture I live in. In NYC, you see so many inspirations all around you. From the history, social customs to the languages we speak, geography and arts- I am constantly inspired by my environment.
What is your current state of mind?
I have this expression I always use. Entrepreneurship is a state of mind, a lifelong journey. Happiness is also a state of mind, finding the silver lining in any situation is very important to me. That comes with being intentional about finding balance in life.
What books are you reading?
I read a ton of cookbooks and have a very intense collection of them. My friend in the industry always send me their books, ‘Lemongrass and lime’ by my good friend Leah Cohen is my current favorite.
How do you unwind?
I love to unwind with a self-care routine. That includes a 14-step skincare routine, cbd oil drops, non-caffeinated herbal tea (current obsessed: Korean omija tea), turning a record on, and some mild creative brainstorming & writing.
What’s your current favorite song?
Love my KPOP r&b. ‘Syndrome’ by CIKI , ‘First sight’ by Heize, ‘D (half moon)’ by Dean, Gaeko
What is your most treasured possession?
My knife bag with over 30 knives which each and everyone has a special meaning. Custom hand-made knives, gifts from specific mentors and chefs, engraved ones.. Etc. Also has all my kitchen tools, and an insane spoon collection that I adore.
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
It will always and forever be food.
What is your motto?
Love > Fear
I lived by this my entire life and will continue to forever.
Favorite gorjana piece?
I love the Venice Layering Set!