The Untold Truth Of Judy Joo

Many of us know Judy Joo from her popular cooking show, "Korean Food Made Simple." During the two seasons she hosted the show, she gave us a tour of the beautiful beaches of Busan to the bustling streets of Seoul, all while making everything from red bean popsicles to Korean Fried Chicken. IMDB notes the show's most recent episode was aired over five years ago, in 2016, but since then Joo has gone on to release another cookbook, opened a new U.K. restaurant, and will now be making her return to television this year. 

Joo will be a judge on Food Network's "Battle of the Brothers," a cooking contest where eight chefs compete for a place as a guest chef in one of the restaurants run by chefs (and brothers) Bryan Voltaggio and Michael Voltaggio. But before you see her behind the judges' table, here's some fast facts about her before the show premieres on June 17.

She earned an engineering degree from Columbia University

We know Judy is a talented chef, but she began her career in a completely different area — engineering within the banking industry. Joo graduated from Columbia University with a degree in industrial engineering and operations research in 1997 (via Columbia Engineering). She then went on to work at Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, before deciding to attend French Culinary Institute in New York and graduated at the top of her class.

She told Cheddar News that she made her choice to attend culinary school when she realized that her true passion was food, not working on the trading floor. However, she credits her undergraduate degree and her initial career path for helping her learn about public relations and business when she decided to pursue her dreams of becoming a chef and restaurateur. Joo was the keynote speaker of the 2018 Columbia's Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science graduation and is a proud Columbia Lion.

She currently resides in the U.K.

Shortly after graduating from culinary school, Judy Joo moved to London. From there, she held a variety of different positions, her first being a pastry chef for Gordon Ramsay. Up until June 2019, she owned and operated Jinjuu, a Korean restaurant in London's Soho district that she founded in 2015, according to Big Hospitality. She also starred on "Iron Chef UK," where she was one of four Iron Chefs and the only female with the position on the show, per FRENCHEFS.

According to LoveFood, Joo considers herself a "French-trained, Korean-American Londoner."

She is now the co-founder and co-owner of Seoul Bird, a U.K. restaurant specializing in Korean street food, located in the Westfield London Shopping Centre. Joo created Seoul Bird to bring Seoul-inspired flavors to London. Although Joo grew up in New Jersey, went to college in New York, and had spent lots of time in Asia working, she began much of her culinary career in London and now calls it home (via NJ Monthly).

She was the first executive chef at Playboy Club London

Playboy Club London reopened in 2011 after closing for 30 years, according to Marie Claire. Although the casino and nightclub was reentering London's food and entertainment scene for the first time in years, Joo had already gained recognition as a respected chef. At the time Joo was appointed as the first head chef of the new branch, she had established her culinary career in London, having worked at multiple Gordon Ramsay restaurants since 2007 (via Big Hospitality). In this role, Joo had full control over the restaurant's menu and told Londonist that she was most excited to serve Duck Disco Fries, a variation on poutine, before the London location opened.

As a Korean-American, Joo brought on lots of fresh perspective to this new role. She drew influence from the old class of the Playboy brand, but also prepared menu items such as kimchi tacos and japchae, according to an interview with Korea JoongAng Daily. She managed the chain's operations for three years before moving on to open her first restaurant, Jinjuu, in 2015.

Her love for cooking came from her mother

Having worked at a variety of different restaurants and shows, it is obvious Joo is familiar with cooking many different cuisines. But ultimately, Joo credits her mother for her love of cooking. Although she did not initially think of pursuing cooking as a professional career, Joo was surrounded by the culinary influences of her mother as a child. Growing up in New Jersey during a time when lots of Korean ingredients weren't available, she learned how to prepare seaweed and kimchi at home (via Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). 

As a multi-city traveler, it is expected that Joo has sampled a variety of different dishes and cultures. However, Joo is ultimately drawn to the mission of making Korean food simple and beautiful, which is what her mother taught her how to do. Joo's talent and ability to craft delicious recipes were picked up by a production company and the Korean government, which funded most of her show, according to Pacific Citizen.

She's judged a cooking show before

This isn't Joo's first rodeo as a judge on a cooking show — she's actually been one before. 2011 was a major year for Joo. Besides becoming the head chef at Playboy Club London, she was also a contestant on Channel 4's "Iron Chef UK." Joo then won the title, becoming the first woman to do so in the UK, and was offered a spot as a resident judge on the show in subsequent series, according to the All American Speakers Bureau. Neither being an Iron Chef nor winning the show is an easy accomplishment — Iron Chefs and contestants are pitted against one another, with the most voted contestant ultimately taking on an Iron Chef in a final cook off, Eater explains.

With her level of experience, we can expect Joo to bring lots of experience and vigilance when she judges the contestants of "Battle of the Brothers," and it's safe to say that we're excited for it.