Why Seoul Sausage Partially Thanks Anthony Bourdain For Their Great Food Truck Race Win

11 years ago, Korean-American brothers Yong and Ted Kim started selling Korean-spiced sausages at Los Angeles farmers markets, friends' CD release parties, and even the set of the TV show "Dexter." Wherever and whenever Angelenos wanted a taste of kalbi pork or sweet and spicy chicken sausages, the former advertising workers would set up shop.

The people asked, and the brothers delivered: Seoul Sausage Company was finally born as a food truck in the early 2010s, according to their website, and it won the third season of Food Network's "The Great Food Truck Race" after two years in business. One decade, multiple restaurant openings, and a pandemic-era pivot to meal-kit deliveries later, Seoul Sausage is now among the top four trucks in the currently airing "Great Food Truck Race: All Stars." The business owners spoke with Foodsided about what led them to success in 2010, when Korean food was just beginning to trend in the United States.

Bourdain championed Korean flavors during his career

Yong and Ted Kim have enjoyed watching Korean food become a "mainstream" part of the American diet over the last decade, they told Foodsided. "People's palates have definitely evolved. Thanks to people like Anthony Bourdain, people are more adventurous with their taste buds and have found lots of respect and appreciation for other countries' foods," Ted noted, adding that it has been "amazing" to see diners get excited about Korean recipes and to find the cuisine's ingredients in stores across the country.

Bourdain was vocal about his admiration for South Korean food. "I have, for some time, believed that the chefs doing the most interesting work in America — chefs who are in fact redefining what 'American food' means — are Korean," Bourdain wrote in the field notes of his "Parts Unknown" episode filmed in South Korea. For French-trained chefs like Bourdain, Korean cuisine's spicy, funky, fermented "spectrum of flavors" was "deeply satisfying" (via First We Feast), and that's why its popularity has spread around the world.

Bourdain had a particular soft spot for Korean-American fusion, which he said was born in wartime South Korea when people didn't have enough to eat (via Food Insider). One of his favorite dishes to come out of this period was budae jjigae, a kimchi and instant noodle stew made with American hot dogs and canned beans. This kind of food helped pave the way for future Korean-American cuisine, like the barbecue fusion that the Seoul Sausage brothers serve today.