Lara Kang and Mrs. Cho – the superstars behind Cho’s Korean BBQ

Mother and daughter power duo are the faces behind Cho’s Korean BBQ. I recently had the pleasure to speak with Lara Kang, founder of Cho’s BBQ. I found out the story behind why she started a small business, what is so special about Korean food and what’s in store for Cho’s BBQ!

Living in this fast-paced world we all have very little time to cook. The desire is high, the will is there but there are just not enough hours in the day. I really detest resorting to fast food so I try to cook as often as I can. I also have frozen homemade meals in the freezer for emergencies.

Lara told me how her mom was always worried about what she ate, even when she was a fully grown woman. Mrs. Cho was still worried Lara was not gonna cook and spend time preparing good and nutritious food. “She used to make marinated meat, pack it and freeze it. Back when my husband and I were working in retail banking, with the busy lifestyle it was so easy to make what my mom prepared, ready to eat in 10 minutes and it was such a good meal.” This was the driving force behind Cho’s BBQ frozen ready to eat meals. That, and the fact that Lara wanted to open a business where her mom, Mrs. Cho, could work.

Mrs. Cho grew up in Jeonju, the 16th largest city in South Korea. Jeonju was named Unesco’s City of Gastronomy in 2012. The city has a thriving street food scene and is regarded as the food capital of Korea. Mrs. Cho ran several restaurants in Korea and also holds the Korean Traditional Cuisine Certificate. Therefore, all of the food Mrs. Cho prepares is authentic Korean food (just a little milder) furthermore all the recipes are created by Mrs. Cho as well.

The name Cho’s BBQ comes from Mrs. Cho, in Korea the wives don’t take the husbands name. “I wanted to keep something for her legacy,” says Lara. I paused for a second and in my mind I thought about how wonderful it is that Lara opened a business where her mom could cook and be involved. In today’s busy world where we see our families rarely, having a family business provides a unique opportunity for family connectedness. This made me wonder if this connectedness was a cultural thing. After an extensive search online I realized that Koreans are very family-oriented. Connectedness is the center of Korean culture.

You might have seen Cho’s BBQ at a couple of different food festivals over the summer. One in particular is Vegans Who Snack, an Ottawa based festival bringing over 40 local chefs and businesses to celebrate community and snacking. One thing you didn’t know is that for all their vegan meals they use seitan. Now for those of you non vegans wondering what seitan is, it’s basically a “wheat meat”. A fantastic substitute for meat. For any of you who have tried to make your own, you know it’s not easy. So another thing you should know is that Cho’s BBQ makes their own seitan! Yes, you heard me correctly! The seiten is homemade. As a vegan/vegetarian, I applaud this!  Along with it being made from scratch, they mix the gluten flour with chickpea flour to make it more nutritious, as well as tasty!

How has this experience been for you, I ask Lara? This is where I find out that Lara has a full time job as well as running her own side business. Hats off to all the small business owners who have decided to start working for themselves! If you think about it, it’s not easy going up against the established chains and mega markets. However, there is a huge market for local and handmade. Whether it’s food, drink, clothing, artisan and so on. People love the story behind the product. They love to know where their food is coming from. Consumers care about morality, sustainability, they want to learn about the people behind the brand, it’s not just what’s the cheapest and quickest anymore.

What does Cho’s Korean BBQ offer? Let me break it down for you. Korean food is one of the healthiest in the world. The most common ingredients used are vegetables, which we already know are full of nutrients that are oh so important for our health. Let’s talk about ginger and garlic, the two main spices used in Korean cooking which provide anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, antiviral and antifungal benefits. Keep in mind, they’ve also been used throughout history for their medicinal properties. Another reason for the food being so healthy is the way it is cooked. Stir-frying, grilling, stewing and fermenting and the most popular Korean cooking techniques which require little to no oil. Less oil equals less saturated fats. Add vegan options to the mix and you’ve got a winner!

I asked Lara what she has been most proud of during this whole process? She thought for a second and happily said “the vegan options. There are unique items we’ve presented to the Ottawa market and they’re really loved.” She told me that they sold out their entire inventory within one hour at their first festival.

Something I think about often is, would I have done something differently had I known what I know now? I asked Lara this and she firmly told me “Honestly, I don’t regret anything. There are things I learned throughout and that’s how you learn. If I didn’t learn I wouldn’t know how to adjust.” Which is true when it comes to trial and error. So let’s take mistakes as learning opportunities and growth. Mistakes have always had such a negative connotation, let’s spin them into something positive and remember that they are valuable. Unless you’re an accountant, in which case you should not make mistakes.

Would you like to know what’s the next big project for Cho’s BBQ? The mother-daughter duo is working on a marinade line. The launch date has not been announced yet but we are all hoping it will be soon. Business is expanding and I am hoping it might expand into Quebec.

If you haven’t tried these yummy Korean dishes yet, you can pick them up at a few Ottawa retailers. I hope to see big things for Cho’s Korean BBQ in the future. I guarantee next time I’m in Ottawa I will pick up a few packs of the vegan BBQ products.

Zenbooks has been Canada’s go-to cloud accounting firm since 2015.  Business Highlights will showcase our clients and their various businesses.  Zenbooks combines modern cloud technology with our in-house expert analysis to provide you with the online accounting service and guidance that best suits your business needs. From tax planning to payroll and monthly accounting services. They’re your finance team! (follow our blog here.)
Mia Markovic, Experience Coordinator

Mia Markovic, Experience Coordinator

Mia graduated from Concordia University with a Bachelor in Political Science and a Graduate Diploma in Public Relations Management from McGill University. Her wide range of experience includes organizing media ethics events worldwide, political and marketing campaigns, teaching at summer camps to founding two experiential learning centers in Belgrade, Serbia. Mia loves hiking, adventures and exploring with her family. Environment, ecology and reducing her carbon footprint are issues she finds very important. Her dream is to one day have a backyard and garden.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

STAY IN THE LOOP with zenbooks by signing up FOR OUR NEWSLETTER