By Helen Mitternight
(Editor’s Note: Charleston is such a foodie town that food and beverage superstars are hiding in plain sight, out of theJames Beardlimelight, but still very much creating and serving amazing food and drinks. This series profiles Charleston’s “hidden F&Bs.”)
Strange times these days, but right before the world as we know it flipped upside down, we caught up with chef Junior Vo atO-Ku.What did we discuss? So much including coming to America from Vietnam, all things sushi, and Charleston's distinctly different taste for sushi apart from cities like Atlanta where he used to reside.
Favorite Kitchen Tool or Gadget: A mandoline. You can add many different parts to it, and it even works on peeling everything from lemons to truffles.
In My Refrigerator (3 Things): Milk, eggs, bacon. Not for breakfast, for late-night ramen.
In My Pantry (3 Things): Rice paper, coconut milk,Spam.I love Spam.
Favorite After-work Hangout: I like to go home. I live with roommates and I like to cook and have a meal with the boys.
Favorite Charleston Restaurant Other Than Yours:Peninsula Grill.I had a seven-course dinner with wine pairings there, and it was my first memorable dinner in Charleston.
Comfort Food: Ramen, always.
Favorite Smell: There’s thisHermesperfume, but I can’t remember the name.
Favorite Drink: G&Ts all day!Hendrick's,preferably.
Number of Hours You Work a Week: 60-70.
Customer Pet Peeve: Allergies to fish. I’ll still serve you, but you have to understand, it IS a Japanese restaurant!
Most Under-rated Ingredient: The innards. Chicken hearts, intestines… there’s a lot of flavor and texture.
Favorite Meal to Cook at Home: A hot pot. You have a communal pot, throw in vegetables and anything in and that broth becomes an awesome mixture of flavors.
Best Advice From A Mentor: It was the first sushi chef I worked for, and he said two words: be humble. I remember it to this day.
What’s Next? I want to keep learning from everyone — how to manage, how to be a leader. I want to become inspirational to other people.
O-Ku is closed right now as the city and world combat Covid-19, but follow along on theirwebsitefor information related to re-opening. Want more? Tune in toEpisode 19 of the Hidden F&B podcast with Junior!