Born in Korea and raised in Minnesota, Sunny Jin had worked at The French Laundry and Tetsuya’s before he came to elBulli, and was one of the most experienced stagiaires of the 2009 season. Proof: almost immediately after his stage was over, he became Executive Chef at Jory, the restaurant of the Allison Inn, located in Newberg, Oregon, outside Portland. He’s already getting national attention for the farm-based, seasonal food he prepares there.
You were pretty frustrated with how things worked at elBulli while you were there. How do you feel about it now, eleven months after your stage ended?
You know? I miss it. I wish I was back there. At the time it was such a grind, and I had a hard time accepting certain things about it. But having lived through it, I see it now as a really valuable experience. No matter how hard the work was, you learned a lot.
What part or parts of working at elBulli did you like the most?
Anything with knife work. I especially liked their play on drinks—how they turned sugar cane into mojitos. In fact, I’m trying to source sugar cane myself now. Also, I loved being able to go down to the beach for a swim after work.
You had some issues with how the sugar cane was prepared though, didn’t you?
Yeah, at first they had us use a saw to cut through the cane. But it was clear to me that it would go much faster if you just hacked through it with a knife. I wanted to say to Eugeni [production chef], just let me do it my way. Eventually, he did.
What parts didn’t you like?
A lot of things at the middle table. You felt like a factory worker at the Ford plant.
Do any of your recipes at The Jory owe a debt to elBulli?
No, we focus on Northwestern cuisine, which is very farm-based. But sometimes for VIPs, it’s nice to pull out a few tricks I learned at elBulli.
What was your favorite family meal?
Tough one. I’d have to say arroz negro.
If you had to sum it up, what would you say was the most important thing you learned at elBulli?
Creativity. It’s all about the ability to expand an ingredient to more than what it is.