In 2003, following an engineering degree at Columbia University and a career on Wall Street, Judy Joo decided it was time for a change. Realising that her passion was in cooking, she enrolled at the French Culinary Institute in New York, and received her Grand Diplome in Pastry Arts before becoming a test kitchen and editorial assistant at SAVEUR magazine.
Excited about the thriving UK food scene, Judy moved to London in 2007, and joined Restaurant Gordon Ramsay as a pastry chef. For the following few years, she also worked throughout other Gordon Ramsay restaurants including Maze, under Jason Atherton, Claridge’s, Pétrus, and Boxwood Café as a chef and pastry chef. Judy also staged around the world at restaurants including 3 Michelin-starred The French Laundry in Yountville, California; Heston Blumenthal’s 3 Michelin-starred The Fat Duck in Bray; as well as Bangkok’s 1 Michelin-starred Nahm restaurant.
In 2011, Judy became a regular face on TV, starring in Iron Chef UK and securing herself the title ‘Iron Chef UK’, becoming the only female Iron Chef in the UK and the second female Iron Chef worldwide. Off the back of her success in the UK show, Judy became a resident judge on Iron Chef America. Her expertise in Korean cooking led to her own shows: Judy Joo’s Return to Korea and two seasons of Korean Food Made Simple. Since then she published her debut cookbook, Korean Food Made Simple and has made regular appearances on numerous programs in the USA including The Today Show, Wendy Williams, The Talk, and various Food Network shows, and in the UK she has popped up on Saturday Kitchen, Sunday Brunch, James Martin’s Saturday Morning. Judy will also be appearing on ITV’s Cooking with the Stars this week.
Having settled in the UK, London was the obvious choice for Judy’s first restaurant as Chef Patron, and she opened the doors to her modern Korean restaurant Jinjuu – meaning ‘pearl’ - in 2014. Judy’s cooking is focused on the flavours of her childhood – raised in a Korean-American family in New Jersey, her back porch was lined with her mother’s clay pots, filled with fermenting kimchi, gochujang and doenjang. The house’s garage had racks of drying seaweed, and a Korean barbecue grill tucked in the corner. Judy and her sister were often drafted in to help fold row upon row of dumplings. Her multicultural heritage and training is evident in her dishes today: from ‘disco fries’ influenced by New Jersey highway diners, and topped with spicy cabbage kimchi, to classic French pastries that incorporate traditional Korean ingredients.
In 2019, Judy left Jinjuu after five years in order to start a new chapter, which included the launch of her new cookbook, Korean Soul Food in October 2019, and has since launched her latest restaurant, Seoul Bird, in Westfield and Canary Wharf specialising in the Korean fried chicken for which Judy is known.