Contestant From Minnesota Shares Korean Recipes On New PBS Food Competition

When “The Great British Baking Show” craze hit the US, fans of television cooking competitions found themselves questioning everything they thought they knew about the genre.

Why did British audiences get a tent in the country, with flamboyant hosts, playful, gritty music, and a cast from all walks of life who seemed to get along, while American shows like “Top Chef” were all about dramatic betrayals? ? and smack-talk?

Let PBS fill the gap.

The new show “The Great American Recipe,” which premieres June 24 at 8 pm, appears to take a more refined approach to the cooking contest. (He hasn’t even announced how much prize money the winner will get. Just that his dish will appear on the cover of a cookbook.) brings together a multicultural and geographically diverse cast of home cooks for a showcase of “uplifting” and supportive dishes that represent their identities.

One of those contestants is Tony Scherber from St. Louis Park. Scherber was born in South Korea and was adopted by an American family when he was just over a year old. The 30-year-old social media manager loves to cook. (He even has a side job making hot pepper oil, which he sells at the Mill City Farmers Market in downtown Minneapolis.) Many of his favorite recipes fuse his Korean heritage with the Midwestern tastes he grew up with. He expects to see his signature gochujang chicken tacos (see recipe) on the show, and among the recipes in “The Great American Recipe” cookbook due out in August.

The Star Tribune spoke with Scherber before the premiere about how he got to television, where he likes to eat in the Twin Cities, and what he hopes to convey to viewers about cross-cultural adoption.

This interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.

Q: Start at the beginning: How did you hear about the show and why did you want to be on it?

A: I first found out about the opportunity through a friend of mine. He messaged me on social media and said, hey, this sounds like a great opportunity. And I thought, yeah, it sounds like a great thing that they’re looking for people who love to cook. I thought, maybe I’ll just throw my name in the ring. And then literally a day later, I got a call from the producer saying, “Hey, you have a really unique story.”

Q: What was going through your head when you were cast on the show?

A: It was surreal. It was definitely an opportunity that I never thought I would get. But I was so excited to be part of the inaugural cast and to share my story and resonate with other people who are Korean immigrants, Korean adoptees, Asians, Midwesterners, representing Minneapolis and Minnesota.

Q: The clip I saw reminded me of “The Great British Baking Show”. It seems to be very nice, celebrating people and what they had to contribute. How would you explain the show?

A: This program celebrates multiculturalism. We are all focused on one thing and this is how food has impacted our lives, and how it tells a story of creativity and passion. It is very familiar and there are many moments to feel good. And the people who are part of the cast, we all have similar but also unique backgrounds. It’s who we are as America as a melting pot, as a culture.

Q: None of you are professional cooks, right?

A: No, we are just home cooks. Some of us have separate jobs that don’t even involve food. We have a barbecue sauce supplier and we have someone who does food delivery. And then there’s me who works in social media and a guy who’s a comedian. But we all have food at the center of our lives in some way.

Q: What role did food play in your life growing up?

A: I was adopted from South Korea and my brother was also adopted. My mom wanted to make sure we were still aware of our culture and background. The way some families celebrate their “catch day”, we would call it our “arrival day”, the date we arrived in the US would make us Korean food. Everything from the classics you can think of, from bulgogi and kimchi fried rice to japchae, mandu. As I’ve grown, I’ve learned more about not only my culture and heritage, but about other people around me and around the world, and how food is at the epicenter of how we care for each other, how we tell stories, and how we show affected.

Q: How much do you cook at home?

A: Quite. Some people say maybe too much. I make a hot chili oil, a small business of mine that I sell at the farmers market. [called TonzKitchen]. This is my first year. I started my hobby of making hot chili oil right at the start of the pandemic. Obviously, we have that level of Minnesota spice that none of us really know how to balance, so to me, this hot chili oil is something you can use not only in Asian meals, but in your daily breakfast as well. We put it on pizzas, we put it on goat cheese with crackers. It’s a really nice transition for those who really love to have those kinds of spices and flavors that can take a little heat too.

Q: What are some of your favorite local restaurants?

A: I love supporting a lot of different restaurateurs and chefs, whether it’s Union Hmong Kitchen and Yia Vang, Ann Kim and Young Joni and Sooki & Mimi, Ann Ahmed with Khaluna, I love going to Hai Hai. And then the highlights like Gavin Kaysen’s restaurants, Spoon and Stable, and everything else in between. There is never a shortage of great restaurants here in the Twin Cities that go above and beyond what Minnesota stands for. Obviously a lot of people think of us as the hot plate Jucy Lucy or Tater Tot. But I love being able to show people that we have amazing local chefs here who are doing a really good job of making sure it’s not just that.

Q: What kind of dishes will we see you cook on the show?

A: I definitely have a lot of Korean influence. Some say fusion. I’m just taking the Midwestern upbringing that I had, the kind of meat and potatoes mentality, but adding a Korean twist to it. Whenever I cook for other people, I love to suggest the Korean Chicken Tacos first, because they are usually a fan favorite. That’s combining my heritage and culture with Korean ingredients like gochujang and gochugaru, as well as my love of tacos, but also my admiration for how I started cooking, through Roy Choi and his Korean fusion taco movement that he made in the past. . It has been a great inspiration to me.

Q: What are you most looking forward to seeing on TV?

A: Oh, I don’t know if I’m really looking forward to it. I am someone who every time you see yourself on TV, I feel a little shy and embarrassed. But honestly, this is a great show for people to tune into. I really hope I can connect with people based on my story and experience. I know there are a lot of Korean adoptees and Korean immigrants here in the US and in Minnesota, and maybe I can be that anchor and resonate with them. Or for people considering adoption outside of the US: Take a moment to realize the impact you can have on a child’s life by making sure her culture and her identity remain intact.

Q: Anything else you want to share about the show?

A: Just be ready to share some really fun experiences. You’ll be really immersed in the cast and how you can connect with any of us based on your love of XYZ, whether it’s your love of soul food, southern food, your interests in comedy, and everything in between. One thing I will definitely take away from the whole experience is the people I met who now consider themselves family.

Korean Chicken Tacos

for 6.

Note: From Tony Scherber, contestant on “The Great American Recipe.” “As someone born in Korea and raised in the United States, I didn’t grow up with a clear connection to Korea,” he said. “I gravitated to chefs like Roy Choi for their fusion cuisine and admired them for how they created their own way of expressing their identity through food. This is my take on chicken tacos: spicy, sweet chicken marinated in gochujang topped with kimchi.” fermented Combining Korean flavors with a Mexican twist, these tacos are a sure favorite for any gathering.” You will need to prepare this ahead of time to give the meat time to marinate.

• 1/2 cup. gochujang

• 1/3 cup. plus 2 tbsp. soy sauce, divided

• 6 tablespoons. vegetable oil, divided

• 5 tablespoons. toasted sesame oil, divided

• 1/4 cup. maple syrup or honey

• 3 tablespoons. hot chili oil or chili garlic sauce

• 2 tablespoons. rice wine vinegar

• 1 ginger nut (2 inches), grated

• 4 garlic cloves, minced

• 1 tsp. Salt

• 1 tsp. black pepper

• Gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes) to taste, optional

• 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

• 6 flour tortillas (8 in.)

• 1/2 tsp. Sesame seeds

• 1 jar (14 oz.) kimchi, drained and coarsely chopped

• 3 green onions, thinly sliced ​​on the bias


To prepare the chicken: In a large bowl, mix gochujang, 1/3 cup soy sauce, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, 3 tablespoons sesame oil, maple syrup, chili oil, rice wine vinegar, ginger, garlic, salt , pepper and gochugaru (if used). Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Add the chicken thighs to the bowl and toss to coat. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.

Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large skillet or grill over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add chicken and cook, turning occasionally and brushing with marinade, until internal temperature registers 165 degrees, 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate while it cooks, adding more oil as needed for the remaining batches. Cut the chicken into small pieces, then transfer to a clean container.

Place tortillas on a grill or grill and lightly brown on both sides, or microwave for 20 seconds to heat through.

To prepare the dipping sauce: In a small bowl, mix remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce, remaining 2 tablespoons sesame oil, and sesame seeds.

Serve: Top each tortilla with the chicken, add kimchi, and garnish with green onions. Serve the dipping sauce with the tacos.

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