James Read is obsessed with fermenting things. He's the founder of Kim Kong Kimchi, a company that's made tens of thousands of jars of kimchi distributed through hundreds of stores. His interest in living foods was born from developing 'zombie brains' from the florets of cauliflower kimchi for a Halloween pop-up restaurant. That winter he started experimenting further with kimchi, making ever larger batches, until he had too much to eat himself, so started selling it to neighbours, then local shops, and on to supermarkets, while moving production from his one-bed flat to his Mum's house and finally a factory. Kim Kong Kimchi has given James the opportunity to build his own walk-in remotely-monitored fermentarium, write an array of fizz-related spreadsheets and address audiences from London's Chinatown to Copenhagen on the wonders of fermented foods. Before that, ArtForEating, the pop-up restaurant which he ran with his wife at their home from 2009 to 2015 involved culinary explorations of the House of Medici, The Addams Family, and pirates, as well as mass participatory 'custard pie fights'. Prior to working with food, James was an editor for the websites Don't Panic Online and Student Beans. As a freelancer, he also wrote for clients ranging from Vice Media to the Museum of London and the Netherlands Institute of Immunology, on topics such as genomics, board games and poster design in the suffragette movement. Writing 'Of Cabbages and Kimchi' brought together James' love of food, science and stories, and allowed him to indulge himself in reading research papers on microbiota, hunting out ingredient origin myths and running A/B tests on fermenting pineapple cores.
Chief Trading Officer, The Fermenters Guild
I run a company, Kim Kong Kimchi which makes baechu kimchi. In order to keep the traditional flavour and rich, deep colour we source sweet, slightly smoky ‘gochugaru’ chilli flakes. While we omit fish products (as would often be found in kimchi) to keep our product vegan, we’ve found that aged ‘aka’ miso provides an excellent umami kick. Some kimchi is jarred after just 3 or 4 days, but we wanted Kim Kong Kimchi to have a richer, more developed flavour, so we allow ours to ferment at carefully controlled cellar temperature for over a week. This considered process led us to create a multi-award winning kimchi and most importantly a product that is loved by customers, with the highest star rating of any kimchi available on Ocado.