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Our Q&A And Recipe From London Based, Korean-American Chef, Judy Joo

by Wolf & Badger

Judy Joo is a London based, Korean-American Chef and the founder of Seoul Birdthe restaurants specialising in Korean Fried Chicken for which Judy is known. Judy has also recently joined the Food Council for both City Harvest in New York City as well as City Harvest in London.

Originally you studied engineering and had a career on Wall Street. What was it that made you decide to make the shift to pursuing cooking as a career? 

Life is too short not to follow your passion and I was becoming disenchanted with finance. I didn't love it entirely, and I knew in my heart that I wanted to be in food so decided to make the switch.

When you made the move to London from NYC in 2005 what excited you about the UK food scene and how would you say this has changed over time?

London has changed so much since I hopped the pond. I have been in London for over 16 years and the food scene was not that great when I first got here— you were hard pressed to find a good cocktail.  And, now the scene is so zeitgeist with some of the best chefs in the world serving up brilliant food. London’s food scene has completely transformed in the past decade and it is truly a gastronomic destination now. 

How does it differ to NYC?

New York is always at the forefront and at the cutting edge of food trends. I’ll see things in the Big Apple first, and then later in London. New York is bigger in general, and with it’s melting pot culture and transient nature, tends to be exposed to more global influences, which show up in the food. 

Your restaurant, Seoul Bird, fuses Korean street food with American comfort - congratulations on opening the doors on a second London location earlier this year amidst a global pandemic! What inspired you to go with this speciality and why do you think this has been so popular? 

Thank you for the congratulations! It has not been easy! Hospitality has been hit hard, and everyone on my team has been working hard.  

Korean fried chicken is incredibly popular worldwide. Who doesn’t love fried chicken! Plus, the combination of Korea’s umami filled flavors make for a winning combination. Korean culture is trending now— everyone is curious about anything coming out of Korea including the food.

We’d love to hear more about your involvement as part of the Food Council for City Harvest, the surplus food redistribution charity.

I have just joined the Food Council for both City Harvest in New York City and London. They are actually unrelated organizations and operate separately, but both have the same mission of rescuing food and feeding those in need.  There is so much food waste, and so many food insecure people— especially during the pandemic.  They provide food to homeless shelters, soup kitchens, family centres, community kitchens, children’s programs and more.  

City Harvest New York rescued and delivered 200 million pounds of food, free of charge, for New Yorkers—more than twice the amount they rescued and delivered pre-pandemic.

During the pandemic, City Harvest London tripled in size to meet the demand of people facing food poverty, and now distributes free food for 1 million meals a month.

What was it that made you keen to support and are there any upcoming projects that you can tell us about?

I have always been involved with outreach and charities, and felt that City Harvest was a great way to combine my professional interests with my philanthropic ones.  They are fantastic, a well established organization that directly make a difference in people’s lives. 

How might our readers be able to get involved and support?

People can support this initiative by volunteering to help deliver these food boxes or donate a virtual box themselves, on a monthly or one-off basis from as little as £5 (which will provide 20 meals!).

Judy's Spiced Butternut Squash Soup

Serves 4-6

Lime Cream:

4 tbsp sour cream

3 tsp fresh lime juice

1 lime, zested


Crispy sage leaves:

4-6 sage leaves

Extra virgin olive oil for frying


For the Soup:

100g unsalted butter

180g white onion, peeled, diced

2 garlic cloves, grated

4 thyme sprigs

4 sage leaves

1000g butternut squash, peeled and deseeded, cut into 1 inch cubes

100g carrot, peeled, diced

1100ml chicken stock

14g ginger, peeled, grated

2 pinches of freshly grated nutmeg 

100ml milk

3 tsp sea salt

Black pepper to taste

To serve:

Lime sour cream

Fried sage leaves

pecans, toasted and crushed

Lime zest, freshly grated


1. First make the lime cream. In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, juice and zest. Mix well until incorporated. Cover and place in fridge.

2. In a small non-stick skillet, drizzle a generously amount of vegetable oil. Heat over high heat and then place 4 -6 sage leaves in. Fry until crispy, and place on a paper towel to dry. Set aside. 

3. Next make the soup. Place the butter in a large heavy bottomed pan set over medium heat, and melt the butter stirring constantly, until it starts foaming.  Lower the heat and continue to stir, you’ll see the milk solids start to separate and brown nicely, making a beurre noisette.  Once you see the browning of the milk solids from the butter, add the onion, garlic, thyme, and sage leaves. Sautee until just softened slight for 1-2 minutes and then add the squash and carrot. Sautee until the vegetables are a light roasted colour in the pan. Add chicken stock, ginger, and nutmeg. Raise heat back to medium and cook until all the vegetables are softened, about 15 minutes. 

4. Remove the thyme and sage sprigs and discard. Blend the soup mix, using a stick blender or in a standing blender. Return to the pan, add milk and gently reheat. Then season with salt and pepper to taste. 

5. Divide among four bowls and garnish with a dollop of lime cream, crushed pecans, fried sage leaf and freshly grated lime zest.  

How to toast the pecans: Toast the pecans in a pan until aromatic, about 3 mins over low heat, stirring as necessary to prevent burning. Remove from pan and place on a cutting board.  Roughly chop the nut and set aside.