One-On-One with Seonkyoung Longest, Jayde Fuzion Executive Chef

A self-taught home cook, Seonkyoung Longest is passionate about cooking, which helped her adjust to life in the United States. Born and raised in South Korea, she moved to Mississippi in 2009 with her husband. She began watching Food Network where she learned to cook new recipes, with her own twist.

Inspired by what she saw on TV, she began making her own cooking videos with a small camera, sharing the happiness cooking brought her with people all over the world. Then came Restaurant Express. Over the course of seven episodes, she competed against nine chefs and aspiring restaurateurs to win her lifelong dream of launching a restaurant in Las Vegas. On Tuesday that dream came true when Jayde Fuzion opened at our resort. In between running around the kitchen and cooking for our guests, we caught up with her to chat about the restaurant.

What excites you the most about having your own restaurant?

Seonkyoung Longest: I’m finally able to let people taste my food! I have been doing my YouTube channel, making videos that show people how to make my food in their home for almost two years. I have a lot of people watching the videos, but I don’t know if they actually cook my food. Now, they can come to my restaurant and taste my food.

How would you describe the menu and food at Jayde Fuzion?

SL: It is an amazing menu that I, and the team here, worked really hard on. It literally combines all types of Asian food into one menu; Korean, Japanese, Chinese. The food is full of flavor and it’s a friendly menu at a good price point.

There’s no way you can not like something about this menu and the food. I just ask that people come to the restaurant with an open mind. If you think you’ve tried a dish or an item and didn’t like it – try it again because sometimes you just haven’t had it prepared the right way.

What do you think someone should order on their first visit to Jayde Fuzion?

SL: Any of my signature dishes, of course! If people want something that I made on the show, the Crab Salad is very good and a great way to start the meal. The Kimchi Fried Rice is also very good and the Bibimbap is a traditional Korean dish that combines rice, beef and vegetables. But, honestly, if you want beef, order whatever beef dish there is – you’re going to like it. Or if you want seafood, order a seafood dish. I think everything on the menu is very good.

You’ve been in Las Vegas now for a few months, what is your favorite thing about living here?

SL: The grocery shopping! Columbus, Mississippi is a very small city. We had a small military commissary and Wal-Mart. If I wanted to make something with Asian ingredients I had to drive at least one to three hours to get good ingredients. Here, there is a Whole Foods ten minutes away and a Korean and China town! It’s amazing.

You mention you’re from Columbus, Mississippi, which has a population of about 23,000 people. In comparison, Las Vegas has a population of nearly 600,000 people. What has been your biggest adjustment to moving to the city?

SL: Driving! I’m not the best driver and I’m not used to driving in a big city with highways and lots of cars. Learning to drive here is scary but luckily I live close to the M!

In addition to moving to a new city, you’ve also had to transition from being a “home cook” to running a restaurant. What has been the challenging part for you?

SL: Even though I was a home cook and haven’t managed a restaurant, cooking in a commercial kitchen isn’t the challenge. Managing the kitchen is probably the most difficult; learning to stay calm. I always freak out that’s just me. I want everything to go well, but I’m learning so much from the other chefs at the M about staying calm and how to manage a kitchen. They are really amazing and so organized.

People might think that I’m lucky because I lack the restaurant experience, but I work really hard and have a true passion and love for food and food education. Robert, and hopefully the people watching the show, saw that and that’s why I’m here. I want to know they deserve to eat good food, made with love, and that’s what I bring to the restaurant.

What is the best meal you’ve ever eaten?

SL: I recently went to Raku in Chinatown and it was wonderful. The chef prepared tuna sashimi with nori soaking in soy sauce and it was a wakeup call for me. I had never tried tuna prepared that way. The chef said you’d be able to taste the ocean and he was right!

Of course, nothing compares to my mom’s breakfast. In Korea, there aren’t a lot of breakfast meals so when I was little my mom would cook whatever she had in the refrigerator. My favorite to this day is Doenjang – Jigae, which is similar to miso soup but it’s a Korean bean paste soup. My mom makes fresh rice and mixes it with grains, pan-fried fish and eggs. It’s so good!

What was your first job?

SL: My first real job was a comic artist in Korea. I love to draw and got a job working with a professional artist when I was high school.

If you weren’t a chef what would you be doing?

SL: I would be doing something with art, creating or making something. In Korea, I was a professional comic artist and I did really well, but at the time I was young and thought I could make it as an artist on my own. I didn’t do well and ended up quitting. After that experience, I started to do belly dancing as a way to relieve stress. I loved it and got licensed. I got really into it and actually competed professionally. In the end, dancing was a great way to meet people but it wasn’t something I could do for a living. I know I have an artistic nature, so I would be doing something that nurtures that.

You can meet Seonkyoung inside her new restaurant Jayde Fuzion, open Sunday-Thursday from 5-10 pm; Friday-Saturday 5-11 pm.