At Parachute, the term “family meal” can be taken literally. Chef-owners Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark are husband and wife, but it’s a family affair in other respects as well. On a recent Thursday at 4 PM, before the Avondale restaurant’s 5 PM opening, Kim’s aunt came in with a bag of fresh herbs from her garden, which she handed over with a tender look at her pregnant niece. And it’s been so from the start; when the couple opened their dream spot on a relatively shoestring budget, they helped defray expenses by doing much of the work themselves, transforming a taqueria into their sleek but inviting space with DIY projects such as handweaving the seats of the stools that line the long bar and crafting the banquette out of the sort of furniture padding used by movers. Their seven-year-old son, Daewon, is a frequent presence—in part because his parents work such punishing hours, 80 per week for both of them on average.
But you’d never know that from the tranquil air of the place, which earned a James Beard Award nomination for best new restaurant last year for its updates on Korean dishes that manage to be both innovative and homey. Staff meals tend to be much more casual than the standard menu—for one thing, Clark says, they typically eat in about 20 minutes. But they’re still guided by a motto of Yim Gi Ho, his old mentor in Korea, where Clark did a stage after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America: “If you want to cook well, you have to eat well.” And during our visit the staff certainly did, dining from a spread of Indo-Pakistani food: tandoori chicken (made with Amish poultry), a pilaf with cauliflower, a green salad, raita, and house-made naan. Off to the side were a crock pot of chai, also house-made, and a dessert of vegan carrot cake (from a box mix, Clark owned) with raspberries.
While Clark and Kim—the latter formerly the executive chef at Aria as well as a contestant on Top Chef—ate in a small alcove, the staff took seats around the bar and relaxed a bit before their shifts. Twenty minutes later, though, all had returned to work and were intent on their tasks, whether cleaning the glass front door with vinegar or continuing with prep, as Clark and Kim made their way back to the kitchen. v