Open Sesame: Meet Eunice Byun
October 22, 2020

Open Sesame: Meet Eunice Byun

In this Open Sesame interview, we're getting to know Eunice Byun, the co-founder of NYC-based Material Kitchen. A small business that believes in bringing better design, intention, and sustainability to the kitchen.

Q: Where are you physically located right now?
Right as NYC was shutting down in March, my husband and I flew to San Diego to hunker down at my parents' place. Like so many others, we found it challenging working full-time with a five year-old and a new baby. While it's tough being away from our home and the city we love, we are finding ourselves falling for suburban living! My older daughter learned how to ride a bike and is now obsessed with skateboarding. We go for leisurely canyon hikes and have spent an inordinate amount of time cooking, baking, and crafting. That being said, we definitely are seeing the effects of staying at home ripple through our day-to-day (meltdowns, news overload, etc.). I try and remind myself that I'm (hopefully) not doing any long term damage with the amount of screen time my five year-old now has (which SHE is thrilled about) and that tomorrow is a new day where I can try again.

Q: Which restaurants are you missing the most?
San Diego may have the best Mexican food but I am desperate for a good NYC meal! We'll be making a beeline for places like Cho Dang Gol, Cafe China, Caffe Panna, and Wildair when we are back in the city.

Q: What podcasts, television shows, or Instagram accounts are speaking to you right now?
I'm sure I'm not alone in my utter excitement about Michelle Obama's new podcast. To be honest, I miss my walks to the office where I was able to listen to my favorite podcasts but haven't had that alone time since quarantine! I also really appreciate the Instagram accounts that have taught me a lot about racial inequity and what we can do about it, including @theconsciouskid, @MichelleKimKim, @eji_org, and @thelovelandfoundation.

Q: When we can all travel again, where will you be headed?
South Korea. Full stop. We were planning to go with my in-laws, but those plans were obviously derailed! I want to take my girls with their grandparents and travel around the country, as most of my time there has been spent in Seoul. There is no better foodie destination in my mind!

Q: What advice do you have for entrepreneurs thinking about starting a food business?
1. Think about how long you're willing to commit to building your business out - and then multiply it by two! It takes time to nurture and shape your business, and you may pivot a few times before you find the right path forward.
2. Know your numbers. Know what it takes to become profitable and where and how much capital you might need from external folks. If you take money, you can get creative with where and how you source those funds.
3. Have a stellar product. We were in this era of splashy brands that covered a lot of product iniquities and I think those days are done. People are working hard to make money, so they should be spending their dollars on something that is excellent.

Q: Any other food brands or other entrepreneurs you really admire?
I've been fortunate to meet some incredible people through Material. Aishwarya Iyer has built a beautiful brand in Brightland, but she is also a beautiful and thoughtful friend to whom I can turn when I need to vent or figure something out. I am also really inspired by what Moonlynn Tsai and Yin Chang are doing with Heart of Dinner, cooking hot meals for those most vulnerable in and around the Chinatown area.

Q: Most underrated cooking ingredient?
Black lime. My good friend, Behzad Jamshidi of Moosh, got me hooked on it. I sprinkle it on everything but particularly love it on grilled veggies or fish.

Q: What's your signature recipe or dish that everyone begs you make over and over?
My husband and I tag-team a pretty killer sushi omakase dinner. We even set up a little wet towel for you to clean your fingers between each piece (chopsticks are not necessary with our service!).

Q: True or false: The human body has a separate stomach for dessert.
I have always been a savory person over sweet, but with all the quarantine-baking we've been doing, I now would say TRUE. My sister just made these incredible tahini chocolate chip cookies that satisfied my savory AND sweet cravings!