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Culinary Arts Director Chef Moon Yang

Meet our Director of Culinary Arts, Chef Moon Yang!  Chef Moon has created some of the most beloved dishes on our menu (ahem, the Crouching Tiger), but his story with food begins before his journey with Maru ever began.

Growing up in South Korea, Moon Yang attended school and played rugby during the week with his peers.  On weekends, he helped his dad at his mountainside Korean restaurant.  Every Saturday morning, he’d carry pots of kimchi up the side of the mountain, prep various dishes, clean the pathways to the restaurant, and learn about the art of food while serving hikers passing by. 

a man and a woman standing in front of a buildingA young Chef Moon and his father (blue shirt) outside the mountainside restaurant in South Korea 

After high school, he brought his passion for food to the Knoxville, Tennessee.  He put himself through an English language school, community college, and then finally found his way to Culinary School. 

a group of people standing in a roomChef Moon in Culinary School in Tennessee  

He started diving into the world of sushi at a popular sushi joint in town.  He grew to understand, honor, and appreciate all that Japanese cuisine had to offer, while honing his own unique style.  When Robert was looking for his Maru right hand man over a decade ago and he met Moon, well... the rest has been history. 

Chef Moon’s passion for food, creativity, and teaching, has pushed him to cultivate a team of avid, passionate chefs.  He inspires his team to take pride in their work, and make food that they believe in every day. 

We sat down with Chef Moon to learn more about his journey with Maru and what inspires him.  Here’s what he had to say: 

What is your philosophy on food? Leadership? 

For both food and leadership, I believe that everything has to have a meaning.  From choosing an ingredient, to plating and serving, from a single act or conversation, to carrying on bigger plans, every step has to lead to serving a clear goal.  My philosophy in food is that it should be comforting and memorable.  I strive to create food that you eat first with your eyes, then you take in the smells, feel it in the mouth, and then your heart. 

What do you love most about working at Maru? 

Being able to get to know and work with many people with different specialties from diverse backgrounds.  It certainly creates challenges to have everyone on board and head in the same direction of creating Good Food, but it has also been the driving force for myself to stay motivated and grow further.

What is the most important thing a chef should learn?

A positive mindset, a desire to learn, and a desire to take on challenges.  Working in the kitchen can be very stressful, especially under pressure.  Keeping the positive mindset and being open to suggestions and  challenges is crucial. 

What is your favorite food to eat? 

Korean comfort food in the style I recall from my childhood years in South Korea.  Extra Spicy Soybean Stew called Cheong-Guk-Jang is my most favorite. 

Where do you look to for inspiration? 

I get inspired from traveling and experiencing good food and culture, working with our chefs and staff, making conversation loyal guests/foodlovers, and following international food trends.

Keep your eyes peeled on your next visit to Maru for Chef Moon— he still visits each location, to work with chefs, dream up new dishes, and occasionally surprise guests at the sushi bar with a treat.