Don't Be Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf—Haejin Chun

“I don’t believe things this big just happen coincidentally. It was the little things that prepared me to be able to handle the beast that Big Bad Wolf is today,” Haejin Chun tells me in her Inner Richmond apartment over cannabis.

Big Bad Wolf is a pop up dinner series in San Francisco and Los Angeles hosted by Chef/Founder Haejin Chun, a first generation Korean-American from L.A. who plans her dinners from start to finish with an insane attention to detail. Yes, her food is amazing but these dinners really aren’t just about the food. Hosting events like female cannabis dinners with meditation ceremonies and a tasting menu thoughtfully curated for the female body, it’s the rare and beautiful dining experiences she creates that just leaves you feeling some type of way. The food service industry is starting to get so saturated in the bay area to the point where it’s rare to find yourself walking out of a dinner appreciating more than just the food. From spending days prepping the menu to creating her own flower arrangements for each dinner, it is intriguing to see how she has molded BBW completely from her own style and personal experiences, with little to almost no prior restaurant experience. 

“I really didn’t have a culinary lineage that made me feel like I was ready for this,” she said. “Somehow, I think from an early age, I was conditioned to this point.” 

What she does is 100% honest and from the heart. She gives it to you straight, no chaser. We caught her right in between her Grass x Grass collaboration event (that highlighted Asians and cannabis with crazy features like a Mukbang Munchies Booth, where you can film yourself eating and record ASMR) and a female cannabis dinner she’s hosting in L.A. next month.

Haejin in her apartment describing the business to us.

Haejin in her apartment describing the business to us.

Details from Haejin’s home.

Details from Haejin’s home.

The letter ‘H’ on her middle finger.

The letter ‘H’ on her middle finger.

Q

When did you first realize you wanted to start Big Bad Wolf (BBW)? 

A

The real “Aha” moment happened here in this apartment. I was doing Haejco, which was my jewelry line at the time and I was feeling a little burnt out by it. I was feeling like I was a one woman sweatshop in my studio making jewelry and I wasn’t feeling connected to the community and I wasn’t having time to invite friends over to cook for them. I was doing that so much when I was living in Paris when I was 26, like literally three or four nights out of the week, people were coming over to my house to eat. My apartment just kind of became the place where people came over and I was always cooking and hosting and I just loved it. When I moved back to San Francisco and started Haejco and wasn’t doing any of that I was feeling kinda down about it. One day, I woke up and pop ups were already a thing and I just told myself, you know what? I’m just gonna try it one dinner, one time. So I invited all my friends over, all the ones I’ve been feeding. I just asked for their support once to see if I can put a dinner together, just to see if I could actually do it. Ever since then, we’ve just been selling out. I really only meant to have one dinner. 


Q

How has BBW evolved over the years? 

A

I don’t even know. I think we’ve had over 50 dinners now. Just in the past two months, the anti-mukbang mukbang dinners, I think we had 26 dinners just in this apartment? It’s been crazy. I don’t know what the lineage is per se because it’s been such a tornado of just trying to keep my head above water because I wasn’t really a chef before. The learning curve was so steep and then I was like running the whole event, the branding, marketing and everything you know? I was so out of breath trying to keep up with the demand because it kept growing beyond what I had even imagined or was even in control of. It kinda just started out as maybe one dinner every other month because that’s how long it took me to literally come up with a new menu, like take pictures, test recipes, promote it and try to sell tickets. Now I’m averaging like 5 events a month so it’s a lot. It’s private dinners, Big Bad Wolf events, collaborations and then the cannabis stuff just started taking off a little over a year ago. 


Q

Is the cannabis scene something you were super interested in or did it approach you first? 

A

I mean, I’ve been smoking for 20 years so it’s always been a part of my life and it’s cool to see everything come full circle in that way because I didn’t just jump on the cannabis bandwagon since it got legalized. Like I’ve BEEN smoking, I’ve been making brownies. It was just a huge part of growing up in California and it’s always been accessible to me and before I introduced it into Big Bad Wolf as a professional thing, it was very much a part of my lifestyle so it was just a natural, organic way of connecting all the dots in my life. Especially after legalization, it just especially opened the door for the culinary scene. Cannabis and food. Those are my two main vices, period. 


Q

What about hosting a dinner excites you? 

A

Oh man, the people, really. It’s like watching that magic unfold, you know? Everyone knows each other or are complete strangers, but by the end of the dinner, it’s a vibe. Knowing that I somehow facilitated that is really what I feel is bigger than me because I’m always talking about how this is so much bigger than me. It’s not even about the food anymore. Like obviously, I still hope they’re still coming because it’s like edible but I’ve been selling out my dinners recently before I even launch the menus so people are coming for a different reason and they trust me. They trust that I’m gonna give them something good. But, I feel like it’s something else. I think it’s really that unfolding that’s happening at that table and people leaving as friends and the genuine smiles. I feel like everyone who comes to my dinners are somehow humbled and they really feel something because the amount of effort we put into the gestures and details, people 

really feel something and that’s what the foundation for creating that magic is. Everyone needs to be humble and open. 

Q

What are some of your favorite dishes to cook and serve? 

A

Oddly enough I think some of my favorite BBW recipes now are the simpler ones. Before, I was trying to make things all fucking fabulous and putting ingredients on the menu that really wow people but now I just like just keeping things fresh, things that taste good and highlighting the main ingredient but I also really like cool sauces. I think that’s where my strengths are and I think my actual favorite dishes are the ones that have the sauces I’ve perfected over time. 


Q

Being completely self-managed, how do you keep yourself inspired and what motivates you? 

A

I mean, fuck, that’s such a real question because especially right now, coming out of the event I did yesterday, I’m fucking depleted. It really does take a lot out of you emotionally and physically. You’re not only putting in the physical work of the prep that goes into an event for 100 plus guests, but the mental crave of “Is this good enough? Are people gonna like this? Is there enough food?” It’s just such an uphill battle. I have this conversation with my friend a lot because I do have those moments where I’m not taking care of myself and a lot of what I’m doing is just giving. The sacrificing and suffering is what keeps it so beautiful in a way that I feel like without that, it doesn’t mean the same thing. So in definition of doing what I’m trying to do, I’ve rationalized that I need to do it that way. But how I relax I guess is just smoke and when you’re high, you feel inspired sometimes. Honestly though, I think the main thing that really keeps me grounded, sane and inspired are my friends and being able to have these types of conversations with people and being real about it. I think if I was only surrounded by chaos and fans of BBW, it would just spin me out. It’s good to have friends who know what I’m going through and support me and actually check in. 


Q

How are asians starting to get involved in the cannabis industry? 

A

We’re trying to tell our stories and share our experiences, representing the culture. Not just hippie or rastafarian cannabis, Asian cannabis is a thing. It’s a different lifestyle and I think Monica (@SousWeed) and myself and some of my other friends are a part of something that’s shaping the culture. It’s not just this lazy, stoner, high-ass mentality. We’re getting shit done. It’s cool to be a part of this and have our hand in the business because a lot of people try to take advantage of us. It’s our job to try to pave the way so it’s easier for other people to get into the business. 


Q

What do you see for the future of BBW? 

A

That one’s always such a hard one for me just because I love to live in the present so I really live my life event to event. Big picture wise, I’d love to work a little smarter and better and not have to grind and be in so much pain after my events and hire more staff. Whatever it takes to take care of my health. I had a health scare earlier this year and I really just wanna figure out a way to maximize my fullest potential without running myself to the ground and learning how to pass off the torch in certain areas of BBW where I don’t need to be doing everything. I feel like finally now after three and a half years, I have enough pull to actually try to make that happen, whereas the first couple of years, you’re paying your dues - you’re not really making money, people don’t know you, people don’t wanna show up for you. I was really lucky but at the same time it was really hard to find people who were down because I didn’t have a rep, I hadn’t ever really worked in a kitchen before and everyone was kind of like “Who is this chick?”. Now that I have a little bit more under my belt, I can finally start to step back a little bit but I’m also kinda crazy so I don’t know how that’s gonna happen. There’s people who are in my life now that support me and help me and it’s already been a world of a difference since the first year but I’m also taking on so much more. 

// Keep an eye out for her future events by signing up for her newsletter here. Her tickets sell out real quick; bigbadwolfsf.splashthat.com, @bigbadwolfsf; Photography by Anthony Rogers.


Food writer, dog mom, hospitality expert, and an at-home chef.


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