And that’s where his mother-in-law came in. Like Kim, Nam Hee Kim is Korean-American, but unlike her son-in-law, she’s a seasoned cook and even owned a restaurant in the 1990s. So while Kim tended to branding, business permits, payroll, and other operational details, Nam Hee developed the menu, which includes premium proteins like Sam Gyeob Sal (pork belly) and Joomulruk (boneless beef short ribs) that guests can cook at their tables. Beyond barbecue, Dae Gee, meaning “pig” in Korean, also serves customizable bibimbap, appetizers, entrées, and sides, including a variety of house-made kimchi, which are fermented anywhere from two to six weeks.
Kim says that like so many first-generation immigrants, Nam Hee cooks by intuition and approximations rather than set measurements. But with growth in mind, those recipes have become more standardized—it’s even more crucial given the amount of prep that goes on behind the scenes.
Although it’s not uncommon for family members to go into business with one another, people rarely team up with their in-laws—and Kim says it’s even more taboo in Korean culture.
“My mother-in-law and I have a phenomenal relationship. We fight quite a bit, but at the same time, we’re very open about that. Business is business, and family is family,” he says. “We both have the same mindset. We want to be successful, and we want to accomplish certain things.”