Layuhl Jang is a Korean designer and creative director based in Milan. Her creative practice shines through atmstudio, a project brand she created between Milan and Seoul. On top of working as a fashion and visual set designer, she has also recently been working in catering and incorporating her passion for food and cooking in projects like her Everyday Namokcook cookbook. Introducing all-time favorite homemade Korean recipes with stories behind the dishes, Layuhl hopes to inspire readers to create their own unique taste and experience Korean food in their "everyday life in a fun and easy way".
Please enjoy the conversation we had about Layuhl's experience writing and publishing her own cookbook, inspirations, and how simple Korean recipes carry stories and meaning within.
SORT: What or who inspired you to write and publish your own cookbook?
LAYUHL: I grew up eating my mother’s home-cooked meals. It always smelled good and tasty. When I moved abroad and missed food from home, I naturally began to love cooking for myself.
I am fascinated by the fact that each household has its unique recipe, even if it is the same food. Basic tomato pasta does not taste the same at your house and my house! I wanted to share my home recipes, which are simple and healthy.
Also, I hear from many people, including Koreans, that cooking Korean food is complicated. Through Everyday Namokcook, I want to introduce that cooking Korean food is actually easy. You can make Korean meals at home every day if you just follow the simple Namokcook recipes.
SORT: Your book Everyday Namokcook features ten simple Korean recipes. How did you find the experience of simplifying and writing the recipes, and documenting your cooking process?
LAYUHL: Some traditional Korean dishes not only pass down the legacy of flavor but also stories along with them. I focused on choosing original and iconic stories and dishes that present Korean history and culture. For example, Koreans eat Gamjajeon (potato pancakes) on a rainy day; isn’t it romantic? And on a birthday morning, you get a bowl of warm birthday soup made of seaweed (Miyeokguk). These are special memories passed down from generation to generation, which I also want to share with Everyday Namokcook readers.
For the photos in the book, I tried to show the details as much as possible. I find it easy to understand when things are kept simple yet focused. So overall, I tried to make things as minimal as possible, targeting both people who are new at cooking and the masters.
Another thing I thought was important was using ingredients and tools that can be found anywhere in the world. It is always more tasty and healthy to cook with fresh local produce.
SORT: Time to time, we hear people around us who are also interested in self-publishing their own books. From your experience working on Everyday Namokcook, what are some things you’ve learned that might be helpful to those who like to make their own books?
LAYUHL: For self-publishers, it is crucial to be aware of what story you’d like to tell the audience. You need to be sure of the message you are trying to carry out. I was lucky to meet many people who supported me in the process. My favorite illustrator, Martijn @happypotatopress, shared his ideas from his unique perspective with me throughout the process with his incredible talents and humor.
SORT: How does cooking influence your creative practice and vice versa?
LAYUHL: I have a fashion design background and currently, I work in creative direction and set design mostly. With the Namokcook project, I also try to send out stories, and this time it is via presenting food instead of fashion. So it is similar in that sense, and I believe the fashion side of me also influences my cooking. Recently, I have been working in catering and not only do I try to serve tasty food, but also create a whole theme that carries out a story of the event. I’ve always wanted to do something related to cooking, and I’m glad that I am slowly moving in this direction.
Photos featured after the first question were provided by Layuhl Jang and were taken by several photographers (@federicotorra, @inneromodo, @stefani.maledetta). Moments captured include her cookbook presentation and catering event, private dinner, and at home catering events in Milan.