‘Sustain This’ is a four-part video series, produced by Complex and Allbirds, that celebrates artists who prioritize sustainably as they seek to perfect their craft.
In the final episode of Sustain This, celebrity chef Kristen Kish explains what cooking means to her, and how she found her voice through food. Having won Top Chef in 2006, followed by a short stint as the co-host of 36 Hours, a Bourdain-esque travel and food show, the Korean-American cook has spent much of her adult life sharing what she’s discovered with others.
“Learning to cook isn’t about learning to say, 'Okay, I’m going to cut a vegetable like you, I'm going to cook this dish like you,'" Kish says. "It’s about bringing it back and saying, 'Okay, how am I seeing all these people put out a very true version of themselves through food, and then how can I be a truer version of myself?”
Born in Seoul and adopted by a family in Michigan, Kish’s influences aren’t derived from just one place. Today, the 34 year-old owns Arlo Grey; an eatery in Austin, Texas, merging French and Italian traditions alongside dishes from her midwestern upbringing.
Speaking to the challenges of owning a restaurant, Kish tells Complex, “Oftentimes, it means working holidays, [and] not seeing your friends or family.”
For an eco-conscious entrepreneur, it also means running an operation that’s as sustainable for the environment as it is for her business. “The products that are sustainable and really great for the environment are also the ones that taste the best,” she explains. “The ones that are most beautiful by way of imperfections.”
Watch episode 4 of Sustain This above to find out how Kish manages to serve her customers while preserving our planet, flaws and all.