At Home Radio with Kate Jones & Friends

Stir Up Some Love with Unmi Abkin

October 24, 2020 KATE
At Home Radio with Kate Jones & Friends
Stir Up Some Love with Unmi Abkin
Show Notes Transcript

Unmi Abkin is a James Beard-nominated chef and co-owner with her husband, Chef Roger Taylor, of Coco & The Cellar Bar, a restaurant named after their daughter. It's located in Easthampton, Mass., which also is home to The Treehouse Foundation, a nonprofit whose mission is to ensure that children who experience foster care find lifelong families in supportive communities, enabling them to lead fulfilling and productive lives.

Unmi puts on a fundraiser for Treehouse every year, although 2020's event went virtual because of the pandemic.  It's now a series of 15 videos of chefs preparing dishes geared for home cooks. Luckily for everyone who's interested in making great food, the videos will be accessible indefinitely on https://www.stirupsomelove.com/.

Unmi and Roger's video shows you how to prepare Honey Miso Noodle Salad, a customer favorite at Coco's and one of their daughter's favorite dishes as well. In other videos, you'll learn how to make Pasta Carbonara, Salad Niçoise, Highbrow Sticky Ribs, Cod Cakes with Remoulade, Salsa Verde with Chicken and Rice, Ricotta Dumpling Cacio e Pepe, Focaccia, Jambalaya, Eggplant Italiano on Ciabatta, Pork Mofongo, Chicken Scarpariella with Sicilian Zucchini, and Pan-fried Hake with Creamed Corn. You'll also learn how to decorate a cake and make the Best.Popcorn.Ever.

Whether you purchase one video ($20) or all 15 ($275), you'll be supporting restaurants in Western Massachusetts and, of course, The Treehouse Foundation. 

Best of all, this is only Season 1. Unmi says they're already planning another series with more tantalizing dishes stirred up with love.




00:00 
[Music] 
00:02 
hello welcome to 
00:03 
at home radio a podcast about feeling at 
00:07 
ease where we are 
00:08 
being comfortable or at home with 
00:11 
ourselves 
00:12 
makes it easier to relate to others 
00:14 
which can bring incredible meaning 
00:16 
and delight to our lives and make us 
00:18 
want to spread the love around 
00:20 
i'm kate thomas and speaking of 
00:22 
spreading love 
00:24 
my guest today is unmi abkin a chef 
00:27 
and restaurant owner who created a 
00:29 
fundraiser called stir up 
00:31 
some love it benefits the treehouse 
00:34 
foundation 
00:35 
a nonprofit that supports adoptive 
00:37 
parents and their children 
00:39 
before we get into the details of the 
00:41 
fundraiser let's have 
00:43 
unmi say a little about her life and why 
00:46 
why she's passionate about children's 
00:48 
causes would you mind doing that unmi 
00:50 
oh yeah i'd love to do that um so i'll 
00:53 
tell you a little bit about myself 
00:54 
and then you will understand why i am 
00:58 
such a i am so connected to 
01:02 
treehouse um i was an orphan 
01:06 
and i came from a background of 
01:08 
instability and insecurity 
01:11 
and i still struggle with those same 
01:14 
issues that the children and 
01:15 
families that treehouse work to overcome 
01:18 
every day 
01:20 
i remember eating from garbage cans 
01:22 
being homeless and very ill 
01:24 
with nowhere safe to rest and recover 
01:29 
and i remember you know the sense of 
01:33 
self-doubt that can haunt children who 
01:36 
have lost their place in the world 
01:38 
and need help love and commitment to 
01:41 
help them find their place again 
01:46 
you know i on my visit my first visit to 
01:50 
treehouse 
01:51 
i felt two very powerful emotions 
01:56 
one was i felt that same sorrow that 
02:00 
never leaves you completely and 
02:04 
followed by a sense of tremendous 
02:06 
gratitude 
02:07 
that a place exists in western 
02:09 
massachusetts 
02:11 
that helps address the problems that can 
02:14 
cut 
02:14 
foster children orphans to their core 
02:18 
um and you know the importance of 
02:22 
treehouse is that there is support 
02:26 
and love and understanding for 
02:29 
both the adopted parents and the 
02:32 
children 
02:33 
um what i find is so many parents 
02:39 
are not adopted parents are not 
02:43 
prepared to deal on their own with the 
02:45 
unique needs of children 
02:47 
you know many have gone through so much 
02:50 
trauma 
02:51 
and i want to just um share 
02:55 
an experience of mine that highlights 
02:57 
the importance of the work treehouse is 
02:59 
doing 
03:00 
um i was six when i was adopted 
03:04 
and there was a little girl at the 
03:07 
orphanage who was 
03:08 
adopted before me and 
03:12 
i was very looking forward 
03:16 
to being able to see a 
03:19 
familiar face you know because i'm 
03:22 
korean 
03:23 
and i was raised in south korea 
03:26 
i've never really 
03:30 
experienced being around foreigners 
03:34 
you know and in an orphanage um 
03:37 
the gates would open and the foreigners 
03:39 
would come in 
03:41 
and um and all the children would go out 
03:44 
because they wanted to be adopted 
03:46 
and it's very scary you know not 
03:49 
knowing where you're going so i 
03:53 
found out this little girl was going to 
03:55 
be living in the same neighborhood 
03:58 
that i was moving to um 
04:01 
and this was when you were done i was 
04:04 
adopted 
04:04 
i was adopted in korea oh okay i was in 
04:08 
an orphanage 
04:10 
um i was put in orphanage when i was six 
04:13 
and um my parents my dad 
04:16 
um was working for the embassy 
04:20 
and um they had adopted me there and 
04:23 
then we lived there for a couple of 
04:24 
years in this 
04:25 
embassy neighborhood um and 
04:29 
they were american though they were yes 
04:31 
yes yeah 
04:32 
my dad is well i have a very 
04:36 
interesting um multicultural family 
04:40 
i'm korean um my father 
04:43 
is a jewish susan 
04:47 
and my mother is mexican and her whole 
04:50 
family is from mexico 
04:52 
so as a little orphan you know you've 
04:55 
seen 
04:55 
these two different people i've never 
04:58 
seen people like that 
04:59 
so i was very very relieved 
05:03 
that there was a girl that i knew 
05:06 
and so soon after i 
05:11 
moved there with my new parents i found 
05:14 
out that she had been sent back 
05:15 
no and 
05:19 
you know her family simply didn't have 
05:22 
the tools 
05:22 
necessary to cope with the challenges 
05:25 
for caring for a child with 
05:27 
a lot of trauma 
05:31 
and what's amazing and why i support 
05:35 
support 
05:36 
tree house is that they provide the 
05:38 
support 
05:39 
that foster and adopted parents need um 
05:43 
to deal with these challenges and are 
05:46 
able to take care of you know 
05:49 
create a home and you know a loving 
05:52 
environment 
05:53 
um and they go beyond that they're all 
05:56 
it's the intergenerational 
05:58 
um model so there are 
06:01 
you know there are beautiful townhouses 
06:04 
um for the families and then there's 
06:08 
also 
06:09 
townhouses for seniors 
06:12 
who move there and they're like the 
06:15 
grandparents 
06:17 
so you know if the parents want to go 
06:19 
out to dinner 
06:20 
there's grandparents there wow you know 
06:23 
if the 
06:23 
kids want to just hang out with their 
06:26 
grandma 
06:27 
they can go to their townhouse 
06:30 
so and if they need support there's 
06:34 
a community there to support them so it 
06:37 
really 
06:37 
has um 
06:40 
it's an incredible model and it works no 
06:44 
kidding 
06:44 
it's just uh it's well it uh um 
06:48 
i understand that it's been it's won 
06:50 
many 
06:51 
national awards and it is a nonprofit um 
06:54 
and um and that perhaps they're 
06:58 
they or at least they're talking about 
07:00 
expanding to other places 
07:03 
and this model is just 
07:06 
it's very it's holistic it also provides 
07:09 
a real family 
07:11 
and uh the children that come out of 
07:14 
you know going through true house 
07:17 
there's you know they go to college but 
07:19 
then they could come back 
07:22 
and they have a place to come to that's 
07:24 
wonderful 
07:25 
um and my our restaurant my husband and 
07:28 
i own a restaurant 
07:30 
it's actually named after our daughter 
07:32 
coco 
07:34 
we we have a fundraiser 
07:38 
for the treehouse foundation every year 
07:43 
this year we weren't able to um 
07:46 
have our fundraiser so we just usually 
07:49 
yeah with this creative idea 
07:52 
so it's usually an in-person fundraiser 
07:55 
but now with the pandemic 
07:57 
you're doing this other thing um so 
08:00 
so stir up some love what is it and 
08:04 
i i understand it's for home cooks so 
08:07 
it's a 
08:07 
video series so tell us more please 
08:11 
well stir up some love is our first 
08:14 
um season um 
08:18 
is there are 15 chefs 
08:21 
and we each chef 
08:24 
has brought in their you know you go 
08:26 
into their kitchen 
08:28 
in the restaurant or the home and 
08:31 
recipes 
08:32 
you know range from fan favorites 
08:35 
um or if you want to learn how to make 
08:39 
you know no need bread bread that you 
08:41 
don't need to need 
08:43 
um it's a variety of different recipes 
08:47 
and 
08:51 
there's just a lot of wonderful 
08:55 
family-run restaurants in this area and 
08:58 
you know you put the you put the video 
09:00 
on and you get to see 
09:02 
your favorite chefs doing what they do 
09:05 
because you can't do it in person 
09:07 
anymore 
09:09 
right and for anybody around the country 
09:12 
anybody 
09:12 
anybody across the country yes can um 
09:15 
just check this out 
09:17 
learn how to make for focaccia i know that 
09:19 
was one 
09:20 
that i was um thought we'd tune into 
09:24 
um what is your episode about 
09:27 
our episode is um we teach you how to 
09:30 
make 
09:31 
one of the most popular dishes i've been 
09:33 
making it for 
09:35 
25 years it hasn't left the menus 
09:40 
no it just keeps coming back um 
09:44 
it's called honey miso noodles and there 
09:46 
are fresh mermaid noodles that are 
09:48 
tossed with um lots of 
09:51 
you know different seasonal vegetables 
09:53 
and 
09:54 
um it has 
09:58 
it you know the dressing is made with 
10:01 
miso and some honey um 
10:04 
ginger and the 
10:07 
it's very light and sweet and tangy 
10:11 
and salty all at the same time sounds 
10:14 
lovely 
10:17 
sounds really really good so um 
10:20 
and i can't remember i looked up um i 
10:22 
looked up stirrupsomelove.com 
10:25 
which is how you can access these 
10:27 
episodes 
10:28 
and um i don't remember the other 
10:31 
ones but there were a whole bunch that 
10:33 
sounded really 
10:34 
good and um that i'd like to check check 
10:38 
out 
10:38 
and what what people can do what viewers 
10:42 
can do 
10:43 
is they'll read a little bit about it 
10:45 
see who the chef is and what the 
10:47 
the recipe is and see if that's what the 
10:49 
the one that they want to 
10:51 
to watch and then they can either just 
10:54 
choose one for 20 
10:56 
to watch and um or they can choose the 
11:00 
whole 
11:00 
kit and caboodle and um for 
11:03 
another price whatever that is i i can't 
11:06 
remember it was 
11:06 
200 and some dollars 200. i think it's 
11:10 
275 dollars 
11:16 
and then um the money this is 
11:19 
what's really wonderful you've got this 
11:21 
smorgasbord of chefs 
11:23 
who invite viewers into their homes and 
11:26 
restaurants 
11:27 
and fling open their pantries i'm 
11:29 
getting this from the website 
11:31 
and and they're making 15 tantalizing 
11:34 
dishes dishes and then 
11:37 
they they give you easy to follow 
11:40 
demonstrations using 
11:41 
everyday ingredients i i think that 
11:43 
sounds wonderful 
11:46 
yeah this you know it's helping 
11:50 
a community and it's also helping 
11:54 
helps foundations 
11:58 
fundraisers yes and you know it's also 
12:01 
for us 
12:02 
as cooks in this valley um 
12:05 
it's such a treat to be able to see our 
12:08 
peers doing what they do best oh yeah 
12:12 
and you know clearly the pandemic has 
12:14 
not been easy on restaurants 
12:16 
anywhere oh my god my goodness it's been 
12:19 
we've been hit so heavily by
12:22 
this pandemic yes so why 
12:26 
are you doing this i mean i know you 
12:27 
want to do it to support the treehouse 
12:29 
you 
12:30 
and 50 percent of 
12:33 
the donations go to the restaurants and 
12:36 
50 
12:36 
go to the treehouse foundation which is 
12:38 
great 
12:39 
but maybe the question really isn't why 
12:43 
but how did you convince other 
12:45 
restaurateurs to do this 
12:47 
when everybody's had so much to deal 
12:50 
with anyway 
12:52 
you know i think that it provided 
12:56 
hope um it also 
13:00 
lets everybody know that we're in this 
13:02 
together 
13:03 
um and i'm going to get a little teary 
13:07 
but 
13:08 
the support of the community has been 
13:11 
amazing 
13:11 
yes yes and 
13:14 
it just gives us hope and it just brings 
13:19 
the restaurant community is a very 
13:21 
tight-knit 
13:22 
loyal group of people 
13:25 
and it's you know we're supporting 
13:28 
each other 
13:29 
just knowing that there's people out 
13:33 
here 
13:34 
who are thinking of us and even a small 
13:38 
donation 
13:39 
it's not just the money it's the 
13:44 
the lord the love isn't it 
13:48 
spreading that love 
13:51 
i like that well you and your husband uh 
13:54 
roger 
13:55 
taylor who's also a chef  
13:58 
you created a cookbook so do you want to 
14:01 
talk about that too yeah the cookbook 
14:04 
is we wanted to 
14:07 
introduce um different asian ingredients 
14:12 
and food from different parts of asia 
14:15 
it's an introduction 
14:17 
so makes it very accessible for 
14:20 
people to make for example 
14:23 
kimchi traditionally you make kimchi 
14:27 
and you know you season it you salt it 
14:31 
um and then you let it sit and you know 
14:34 
across 
14:35 
in a container and let it ferment and it 
14:37 
usually takes about two weeks to get 
14:40 
a really good kimchi that's through 
14:42 
natural fermentation 
14:44 
um but we thought hey you know 
14:48 
what if somebody just wants to quickly 
14:50 
put together 
14:51 
a kimchi um so we came up with a recipe 
14:55 
that you can make in 
14:56 
half an hour so it's more like 
15:00 
a it has the flavors of kimchi 
15:03 
um but not as pungent so that's kind of 
15:06 
reflects 
15:06 
most of the recipes in our cookbook 
15:10 
okay and the cook is called curry and 
15:13 
kimchi 
15:14 
there's um a different couple of 
15:17 
different curry recipes 
15:20 
lots of salads and most of the dishes 
15:24 
you can do 
15:25 
very quickly and with you know not too 
15:28 
many ingredients 
15:29 
that's great and is the book available 
15:32 
now 
15:33 
or is it available for pre-order oh no 
15:36 
it the book came 
15:37 
out um last 
15:40 
oh last spring oh okay oh no i'm sorry 
15:44 
no last fall 
15:46 
it came out oh okay yeah and uh we were 
15:49 
named uh one of the best books of 2020 
15:55 
by npr great congratulations 
15:59 
thank you but we do have a very 
16:04 
blurb from alice waters who is a 
16:08 
very famous chef out of california yeah 
16:10 
have you heard of the restaurant chez panisse
16:12 
oh yes 
16:13 
i i think i'm very lucky plenty of 
16:15 
people who aren't in restaurants have 
16:17 
heard of her 
16:18 
and the restaurant oh yeah she's amazing 
16:21 
so yeah we got we had some really good 
16:23 
reception and you know what the 
16:26 
really wonderful thing about it and i 
16:27 
know it's a success 
16:29 
because people come up to me and say you 
16:32 
know what 
16:33 
i can do it i can make your recipes 
16:37 
you know there's oh there's cookbooks 
16:39 
that have they're amazing 
16:41 
it's very hard to make the dishes so you 
16:44 
can just 
16:44 
look at it and just imagine what it's 
16:46 
going to taste like 
16:48 
but our cookbook is so simple you can 
16:51 
just you can make it at home 
16:52 
and um people you know come up and say 
16:56 
they do that's wonderful i i 
16:59 
am glad to hear that so it's available 
17:01 
on amazon 
17:02 
barnes and noble
17:05 
amazon you could order it 
17:07 
from any a lot of 
17:11 
major stores and it was a collaboration 
17:15 
with my husband my daughter and me 
17:19 
that's so there's so there's yeah there 
17:22 
is 
17:23 
um so there's a lot so it's mainly 
17:26 
all the dishes are asian influence 
17:30 
except one no i'm sorry except 
17:33 
two because we had to put it in there 
17:35 
our daughter 
17:36 
really insisted um one is 
17:39 
mac and cheese okay 
17:43 
does it have an asian twist 
17:48 
you know he's asian it is always 
17:52 
asian you know you've got green thai 
17:54 
curry you have 
17:55 
vegan curry you have you know pad thai 
17:59 
you have general sauce and then you have 
18:02 
mac and cheese 
18:02 
all right well mix it up 
18:06 
good for cooking you have to put the mac 
18:09 
and cheese in there because it's good 
18:10 
for kids 
18:12 
and the honey miso noodle salad is 
18:14 
there too because of her 
18:16 
well she loves him and honey miso 
18:18 
noodles but 
18:20 
she do suggest that and i said did that 
18:22 
work this is asian 
18:24 
but i will and then she said you have to 
18:26 
put the mac and cheese 
18:28 
well she definitely has her opinions 
18:30 
doesn't she yes 
18:31 
yeah that's great well i you know wish 
18:34 
you 
18:35 
lots of luck you know hanging in there i 
18:37 
know that your community is supporting 
18:39 
you during this time 
18:40 
the stirr up some love fundraiser 
18:43 
sounds wonderful 
18:44 
and we'll have you know links to that 
18:47 
and again it's 
18:48 
stir up some love dot com anybody can go 
18:50 
to that 
18:51 
and the videos will be available 
18:54 
at least through this year if not 
18:55 
indefinitely right i think it's going to 
18:57 
be available indefinitely 
18:59 
um there's uh our episode is coming 
19:03 
out tomorrow um and then there's a ours 
19:06 
is the second episode 
19:08 
and that's the first one 24th that comes 
19:10 
out 
19:11 
yeah tomorrow yep okay 
19:14 
and um and then there will be 
19:17 
so that's the second one so there'll be 
19:19 
13 more 
19:21 
yes they're all different they're all 
19:23 
different um 
19:26 
they're all very different which is nice 
19:29 
was it 
19:29 
one how to decorate a cake or something 
19:32 
was it 
19:33 
yes this amanda from small oven 
19:37 
and that's what she does she has a 
19:39 
really wonderful little bakery 
19:40 
okay very good well this is 
19:44 
terrific um much luck and love to you 
19:47 
i hope that it works very very well 
19:50 
raising 
19:52 
some funds to support the restaurant 
19:54 
community and the treehouse foundation 
19:57 
yes thank you and i hope you enjoy the 
20:01 
video 
20:02 
yes i i most certainly will i have no 
20:04 
doubt so 
20:05 
thank you for being here thank 
20:06 
you okay 
20:08 
have a nice day thank you this is kate 
20:11 
thomas with at home radio 
20:13 
until next time let's stir up some love 
20:21 
[Music] 
20:53 
you