Foxsister chef Brandon Kirksey didn’t plan on becoming a Korean chef. He started his career in San Francisco fourteen years ago at Jardinière and The Grand Cafe. After honing his skills on the line, Kirksey relocated to Seattle to establish several Italian restaurants. He returned to San Francisco briefly to be chef de cuisine at flour+water, but went back to Seattle to help open Girin, a Korean steakhouse. His background in butchery and noodle-making translated well to this new concept.
Kirksey received numerous accolades during his time at Girin, including a James Beard nomination for “Best Chef Northwest.” His tenure there also unearthed his passion for Korean cooking. After two years, he came back to San Francisco to be chef de cuisine at The Slanted Door, the popular upscale Vietnamese restaurant. He has since left this post to pursue his own restaurant endeavor full time.
Authentic Cuisine, Not Fusion
Kirksey says that his version of Korean cuisine is not fusion, but instead a recreation of authentic dishes. He modeled his popup Anju Bar after a modest Korean establishment where people socialize and eat communally. “Anju” literally means “drinking snacks.” Kirksey’s flavors are recognizable, but with something to elevate the experience. He presents the dishes in a more finessed manner than traditional Korean ones while maintaining a rustic, family-style feel. He also infuses his Korean dishes with high-quality Bay Area produce and meat.
Kirksey may not be making kimchi meatballs, but he has carried over some Italian techniques. He processes his own ingredients and crafts the major elements of his menus entirely from scratch, like wonton wrappers and dumpling fillings. Kimchi is his proudest accomplishment, and he ferments it right in his San Francisco kitchen.
For his Napa cabbage variety, he soaks the entire head in a salt brine and rubs it with a paste of Korean chili flakes, fish sauce, and salted shrimp. After packing it in earthenware jars, he leaves it to ferment at room temperature. Five days yields a fresher kimchi for eating raw, while a couple of weeks produces a funkier suitable for soups or stews.
Anju Bar Becomes Foxsister
Kirksey has now turned his Anju Bar into his first brick and mortar. Dubbed Foxsister after a character in Korean lore, this casual establishment is located in the lively 24th Street Mission corridor. Expect dishes like Korean fried chicken, handmade dumplings, fall-off-the-bone ribs, and savory pancakes. These salty and savory plates pair perfectly with Kirksey’s eclectic roster of Asian beers, soju cocktails, and adult slushies.