Sean Hwang of Manok Park

Interview

Manok Park – Licenced Korean Cuisine
15 Kingston Road, Underwood 
Ph: 0403 701 879 

Lunch 11:00-15:00 / Dinner 17:00-21:00 / Wednesday closed 

Chef Sean Hwang loves the lifestyle in Australia. After first travelling here on a working holiday visa in 2011 and working in high end restaurants in Sydney, he returned to Korea only to find himself missing the weather and lifestyle.

“People can be relaxed in almost all four seasons and that weather can make people enjoy their life more,” Sean says.

With his elder sister now living in Brisbane as well as some friends he had worked with in Korea, he made a permanent move back to the southern hemisphere in 2016.

With his extensive experience, he found a role at the sought after fine dining restaurant Aria at Eagle Street Pier in Brisbane where he worked for three years.

“At the time they decided to close down the business so I thought that it was time to open my own business.

“I decided Logan had more opportunities to introduce my cuisine: better than Gold Coast and Brisbane, because it is located between them so there is more accessibility for customers.”

The result is Manok Park, a foodie gem tucked away in Underwood in the City of Logan, serving casual, authentic Korean food, from an exceptional fine dining chef.

Both of Sean’s sisters now live in Australia and the three of them banded together to establish the business in 2019. His eldest sister Victoria is the business manager.

Sean Hwang and his sisters at Manok Park

“I dream and she makes it happen,” Sean laughs. “It is rare to be working with all your siblings and spending so much time together after you have finished school. It can be challenging,” he says ruefully with a slight smile, “but also a good opportunity I think.”

Sean had never planned to be a chef.

“I didn’t really know what I wanted to be. My parents had their own restaurant in Korea. They suggested I study to be a chef, and it worked. But my major had been in classical piano. My sisters and I were all more involved in the arts at school.”

Doing his apprenticeship in South Korea, Sean also travelled to Ireland for cooking and language training. He travelled Europe learning the cuisines of the French, Italian, Spanish and Northern Irish, then returned to Korea to continue refining his skills in his native cuisine.

He looks forward to again being able to travel once border restrictions are lifted to get further inspiration from the kitchen of other leading chefs to bring back to his own restaurant. However, he attributes the early influence of his mother on his cuisine as the most important.

“All the chefs… we want to work in the famous restaurants. We learn from their kitchens. And I have. But now, I think my mum’s cooking inspires me more than that. When I was young, when I came back from school, my mum was always cooking for me, so I still remember that smell and that vibe and I think that inspires me more than any professional kitchen.”

‘Manok Park’ is in fact Sean’s mothers name and in the naming of the restaurant, a nod to her influence on his talents.

“She taught me how to make kimchi the traditional way. She also taught me to make our famous traditional dish, Ganjang gejeng (raw crab marinated in soy sauce) and Yangnyeom-gejang (raw crab marinated in soy sauce and spices).”

Sean uses local ingredients in all his dishes and aims to use as much of the fresh products as possible to minimise food waste.

“In terms of Pork, which we use a lot, we only use the pork loin for our main dish, but the other pieces we can use for stew or to chargrill, so there is no wastage of the ingredients.

“I always use Australian ingredients. Especially premium Australian pork and also wagyu for our beef tartare. But also the unique Korean ingredients like chilli paste, soy paste and soy dressing. Those things make the food more unique and special.”

In the little spare time that he has as a small business owner, Sean likes to spend time doing boxing training to help him unwind. He still plays piano, but concedes that now he is running his own business, he has little time to play.

“I try to explore Logan. I found a cafe in Logan called Extraction Coffee. It was very good coffee. But I did not expect a cafe like them in Logan and I was so happy to find them,” he enthuses about Manok Park’s near neighbours in Slacks Creek.

“I really like Shinbashi Yakiniku too. Just across the road there is a very chilled and nice Japanese Bar-B-Que.

“I feel Logan is growing up with new venues. There is more population and growth. And there is a strong younger generation in Logan,” Sean observes.

“It is hard to do authentic Korean food in Australia, as customers don’t always have much knowledge about Korean food and culture. So I hope people don’t hesitate to try our unique and authentic food. These days after pandemic, people can’t travel. So it’s a good opportunity for people to try Korean food.

“One customer was trying to learn Korean language and experience the Korean culture. One day she wrote a letter with Korean. It touched us so much.”

For your chance to experience your own taste of Korea through the beautiful food of Chef Sean, drop into Manok Park on Kingston Road at Underwood for lunch and dinner any day except Wednesday.

Author: Jacqueline Bawtree 2021 for Logan City Council.

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