Chef Jeffrey Kim Grilling Salmon Collar over Thaan Charcoal

Chef Jeffrey Kim of Aji Fish Butchery & Zilla Sake

Aji Fish Butchery & Zilla Sake: Chef Jeff Kim’s culinary journey began at a Korean Ox bone soup house in Los Angeles.  He started as a cashier, but quickly moved into the kitchen to learn more. From banchan (Korean side dishes) to hearty soups, Jeff worked his way up, mastering each station. But it was his transition to a sushi restaurant that truly set his course.  As a busser, he glimpsed the artistry behind sushi—the precision, the delicate balance of flavors, and the reverence for fresh ingredients. Jeff’s Sushi career had begun.Growing up and working in Los Angeles, Jeff felt the need for change. “Being born and raised in Los Angeles comes with its own advantages, and challenges,” says Jeff, “I wanted to venture outside of my comfort zone and challenge myself.”  The city’s vibrant culinary scene had nurtured him, but he craved new challenges. Portland beckoned—an oasis of creativity, authenticity, and uncharted territory. Jeff packed his knives and headed north, ready to explore the Pacific Northwest’s culinary landscape. After some time as the first hybrid chef de cuisine of both the kitchen and sushi bar at Bamboo, Jeff decided he wanted to focus more exclusively on sushi.  He had met Kate Koo of Zilla Sake at a Korean food festival called “Mukja,” (which means Let’s eat). When it came time to transition, he felt that Zilla would be a good fit.  At Zilla Sake, Jeff & Kate developed a strong partnership with a blend of their unique skills as well as overlapping talent.  Together they manage and chef the sushi bar while Kate handles more of the business activities and Jeff pushes culinary creativity forward.  Jeff’s latest venture, Aji Fish Butchery, was created in response to a common question Jeff receives while running the sushi bar: “where can I get sushi grade fish?”Aji Fish Butchery specializes in dry-aged fish, a process that allows you to showcase the highest potential of this oceanic bounty. During the aging process, the amino acids start to break down the proteins while the loss of moisture tightens up the meat fibers, and concentrates the flavor. It is truly the best expression of seafood. “Aji has a dual meaning. Aji means ’Horse Mackerel’, but also means ‘Flavor’ in Japanese,” says Jeff.  By aging, Aji gives you the most flavorful version of seafood, like the Big Glory Bay Salmon from new Zealand, which is the most popular Aji Fish Butchery product at the moment. When asked about a favorite dry aged seafood, Jeff says “I dry aged a Bluefin Tuna from Japan for 6 weeks a couple of years ago. That was an exciting one. We held a ‘Maguro Kaitai’ (Tuna breakdown) demonstration at Zilla.Beyond fish, Jeff’s passion extends to fire. Grilling with briquettes and lump charcoal had its merits, but inconsistency plagued him. “I felt the coals would either die too quickly, or take so long to be ready by the time you were done cooking, or ready to cook, the lump is raging hot,” says Jeff, “I really enjoy using the Thaan charcoal because it does not take a significant amount of time to heat up, and it stays consistent for a long time.”   Jeff has recently been testing the Thaan Grill prototype, and he says ”Comboing Thaan Charcoal with the Thaan Grill is amazing.The grill is designed to perfectly fit the charcoal either length wise or width wise. Comparing a traditional Binchotan grill vs. the Thaan grill is not only in the weight difference, but how deep the grill is. You can stack up to three or four logs in it.”    Thank you, Jeff, for your partnership and creativity!  We look forward to many perfect bites with you!
Back to blog

Leave a comment