Bill Kim’s first formal kitchen duty was to roast and grind sesame seeds with a mortar and a pestle, but it was enough to entice him into a career in cuisine. Already a grinding expert, the Seoul transplant (Kim emigrated at 7) got his formal training at the School of Culinary Arts at Kendall College. Little did he know he’d be spending the next 15 years working in some of the top French and Asian restaurants across the country.
No doubt one of his most formative positions was under another chef transplant, Jean Banchet, who hired Kim as chef de partie at Ciboulette in Atlanta. The following year, Kim joined Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, where he was eventually promoted to sous chef, followed by a year as sous chef at Trio. Hungry for more knowledge and experience, Kim took a position as executive sous chef at Susanna Foo’s eponymous Philadelphia restaurant, spent a year at Bouley Bakery, and opened the Inn at Blueberry Hill in Massachusetts as executive chef.
When Kim returned to Chicago—and Charlie Trotter’s—three years later, it was as chef de cuisine. But it was only when Kim became executive chef of Le Lan that both his cultural experiences and a laundry list of culinary experience could finally manifest in the refinement of creative, innovative, and diverse Asian dishes (and an expertly run kitchen). But even at the helm of so much innovation, Kim—who was named a 2008 StarChefs.com Chicago Rising Star Chef for his work at Le Lan—ultimately tired of the world of fine dining. So he left Le Lan to open a fast casual fantasy, Urbanbelly, a modern noodle and dumpling concept that brought Kim’s imagination and internationalism to the fore, affordably. A second concept, Belly Shack, opened in 2009, highlighting pan-Asian cuisine with Latin notes and characteristic “Kim” creativity.