Born and raised in South Korea, Daeun Kang‘s culinary journey began in her family’s noodle shop, where she assisted her mother from a young age, sparking her interest in the hospitality industry. The restaurant’s vibrant menu reflected the changing seasons, offering kimchi and cold noodle soup in summer and heartwarming seafood and chicken noodle soups in colder weather. In this bustling noodle shop, Kang absorbed the importance of farm-to-table dining and seasonal cooking.
“My grandparents, who were professional farmers, instilled in me the value of paddock-to-plate dining — cultivating rice, vegetables, and fruits,” she said.
Today, Kang, a little under 30 years old, is at the helm of one of Sydney’s most impressive fine dining establishments, Oborozuki — with a harbour view that would make anyone fight over the right chair. She’s the first female head chef to be appointed there. The menu she’s crafted reflects a thoughtful blend of Japanese and French cuisines, harmonising the best of both worlds. Her inspiration draws from collaborations with local suppliers, global dining experiences, and her own cultural background.
Kang’s culinary tapestry extends across prestigious establishments, with Aria standing out as a crucible of learning under exceptional head chefs. Her education at Le Cordon Bleu became a poetic exploration of French culinary techniques, introducing her to a new language that enriched her approach to blending diverse culinary traditions.
Despite her young age, Kang’s journey in the hospitality industry has included her fair share of challenges met with resilience. “When I first began, language was a significant hurdle,” she said. “Being shy and reserved, I found it daunting to communicate effectively.” However, Kang overcame this obstacle by dedicating herself to studying more, pushing herself out of her comfort zone, and engaging with people despite her initial reservations.
As a female in a traditionally male-dominated realm, Chef Kang faced the uphill battle of underrepresentation in leadership roles. Inspired by trailblazers like Clare Smyth, she became a torchbearer for equality, focusing on skill and dedication to transcend gender stereotypes. “However, there’s a gradual shift happening, which is a step in the right direction.” Kang believes creating an inclusive culture and offering mentorship opportunities are important steps toward encouraging more female representation in leadership roles.
When she was approached to be the head chef at Oborozuki, Kang saw an opportunity to contribute her culinary expertise to a venue pulsating with potential. “I wanted to bring a fresh perspective to Oborozuki by prioritising seasonal and fresh produce,” she said.
The centrepiece of her menu is the Glacier 51 Toothfish — an ode to perfection. Marinated in shio koji, kissed by binchotan charcoal, and dressed with mirin miso reduction, it is Kang’s favourite.
To complement the Toothfish, Kang said she prepares a “wakame beurre blanc by cooking shallots with sake, rice vinegar, and French vermouth.” It’s served with poached white asparagus with koji butter, alongside broad beans and preserved lemon, including white asparagus puree and finely crushed broad beans.
Kang envisions Oborozuki as a haven of seasonal and fresh produce, a place where diverse cooking styles converge and the spirit of fusion cuisine thrives. Her legacy, she hopes, will be one that celebrates diversity, creativity, and inclusivity in the hospitality industry.