SAEHEE CHO  Photos by:  Lauren Pisano    Saehee Cho is a writer, artist, and cook. She is the founder of SOO N, a food concept grounded in an ongoing artistic engagement in all things culinary. Her work includes catering, food styling, and menu consulting.  Her poetry and fiction have been published in  Tierra Adentro ,  Black Clock ,  Sidebrow ,  RECAPS ,  Entropy , and  Eleven Eleven . She is an organizer and regular contributor for Enter>text: an ongoing performance series engaging with the expansive and immersive experience of literature. She lives and eats and writes in Los Angeles.                    

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        

       
    
     
  


                Girls At Library :  What was the name of the first book you fell in love with, that turned you into a lifelong reader?     Saehee Cho : The first book I fell in love with was   The Secret Garden  . I remember my mom giving me this beautiful hardback edition with these perfect delicate drawings in between chapters. It felt like my first real grown-up chapter book and I read it again and again obsessively, imagining myself as“Mistress Mary, quite contrary”…                            GAL :  Having studied creative writing and literature in undergrad and grad school, was there anything you found most inspiring to read? Any texts that were a kind of guiding light for you?     SC : I associate Anne Carson’s work deeply with my time at both UCSD and CalArts. Even now she is a writer I return to over and over again. I’ve always appreciated the hybridity of her forms and the permission she gives herself to open up a text in such a way that same work can be studied as fiction, essay, poetry, or translation. I was first introduced to her work through,  If Not, Winter,  her collection of Sappho translations. She uses empty brackets to represent lost text, burnt papyri—that act of materializing absence—I think it changed me as a writer and reader.                             

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        

       
    
     
  


                             GAL :  What is the power of story?      SC : This is a hard one! Narratives are simultaneously escapist and a way into ourselves. At their best, powerful narratives can bring about both self-awareness of the construction of our own real-life narratives and also provide a way to transcend them. I think   P  eople of Paper   by Salvador Plascencia is a good example of this. I don’t want to give too much away about the narrative twist that happens in the middle of the book, but it’s brilliant.                        

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        

       
    
     
  


                                 

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        

       
    
     
  


              GAL :  Would you say the power of a story ever rolls over into your catering company SOO N food and the intricate meals you prepare? If so, what is your process when creating food if it is led by text?     SC : I would say that my food process mimics the act of writing. A plate is a composition and a meal is a narrative. I think because of my background I automatically think about cooking as an art practice. It’s not simply about the food on the plate. There’s a drafting process, an editing process, even a workshopping process. Cooking feels almost sculptural to me in this way—like I’m sculpting little edible poems.      

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        

       
    
     
  


                       GAL :  With your business picking up, how often would you say you read?      SC : I read every day but in spurts. Because I’m in a phase where I’m mostly reading poetry, it’s easy for me to pick up a book for 5 minutes and then go back to kitchen work.                                 GAL :  Do you have a current—or “forever”—favorite book?     SC : A “forever” favorite seems like an impossible thing to name, but for now I will say   Bluets   by Maggie Nelson.                                 GAL :  Who is your favorite author?      SC :  Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum , both for her incredible writing and also for being the person who encouraged me to pursue writing in the first place.                               

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        

       
    
     
  


       GAL :  We have a friend who has a “Sanity Shelf” dedicated to books she returns to again and again, to re-read for pleasure, knowledge, and solace. What books would be on your Sanity Shelf?      SC :     The Beauty of The Husband   by Anne Carson       Bluets   by Maggie Nelson       My Life   by Lyn Hejinian       Palm-of- the-Hand   by Yasunari Kawabata       Dictee   by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha                          

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        

       
    
     
  


                                       

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        

       
    
     
  


                GAL :  Is it important to you to physically hold a book you read? Or can you read on a device, without impacting the experience?     I wish I could read on a device (very practical!) but I’m too much of a romantic to give up on the physical object of the book. I love the feel of the paper, dog-eared pages, the way books age when we love them. You just don’t get that kind of character from a screen…     GAL :  How do you choose the books you read? Have you found a strategy that works?      SC : If I find a writer that I really love, I tend to read all of their work, one book after the other. I also get great recommendations from friends who are avid readers too.            GAL :  Do you have a current favorite reading spot?  Where is it?     SC : Right now, I like reading in bed the best.     GAL :    Or—can you read anywhere—place is not important?     SC : I think a good place to read can definitely enhance the experience. The way the ambiance of a restaurant is important or the low-key buzzy feeling of that perfect bar—the conditions have to be right.                             

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        

       
    
     
  


                              GAL :  Fiction VS Non-Fiction?      SC : Both! Also, poetry!          GAL :  If you read non-fiction, what genre do you prefer?      SC : I’ve been enjoying the criticism and memoir coming out from Graywolf Press. Specifically I am thinking of   The Argonauts   by Maggie Nelson and   On Immunity: An Inoculation   by Eula Biss.          GAL :  If you were to write your memoir, what would you title it?     SC : “In Search of the The Perfect French Fry: A Life” (I’m joking but I’m not joking).                        

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        

       
    
     
  


                          

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        

       
    
     
  


                             GAL :  Please name a few books you recommend reading, and the reasons for your choices.                     SC :   A .  Because these will melt your brain  (also  B . and  C .):       Citizen   by Claudia Rankine       Autobiography of Red   by Anne Carson       2500 Things About Me Too   by Matias Viegener       Humanimal   by Bhanu Kapil                 B .  Because these will break your heart  (also  A . and  C .):   Reconsolidation: Or it’s the ghosts who will answer you   by Janice Lee       The Sad Passions   by Veronica Gonzalez Peña       Creature   by Amina Cain       Don’t Let Me Be Lonely   by Claudia Rankine                                 C .  Because these are fearless  (also  A . and  B .):   Blood and Guts in High School: A Novel   by Kathy Acker       Impossible Princess   by Kevin Killian       The Chronology of Water   by Lidia Yuknavitch       Beauty & Sadness   by Yasunari Kawabata                    For more on Saehee's writing, head to  her website . Also check out the  soo n food  & her company TENZO.  All photos are courtesy of  Lauren Pisano  .  Please do not use without her express permission.

SAEHEE CHO

Photos by: Lauren Pisano


Saehee Cho is a writer, artist, and cook. She is the founder of
SOO N, a food concept grounded in an ongoing artistic engagement in all things culinary. Her work includes catering, food styling, and menu consulting.

Her poetry and fiction have been published in Tierra Adentro, Black Clock, Sidebrow, RECAPSEntropy, and Eleven Eleven. She is an organizer and regular contributor for Enter>text: an ongoing performance series engaging with the expansive and immersive experience of literature. She lives and eats and writes in Los Angeles.

 
 
 


Girls At Library: What was the name of the first book you fell in love with, that turned you into a lifelong reader?


Saehee Cho: The first book I fell in love with was The Secret Garden. I remember my mom giving me this beautiful hardback edition with these perfect delicate drawings in between chapters. It felt like my first real grown-up chapter book and I read it again and again obsessively, imagining myself as“Mistress Mary, quite contrary”…

 
 


GAL: Having studied creative writing and literature in undergrad and grad school, was there anything you found most inspiring to read? Any texts that were a kind of guiding light for you?


SC: I associate Anne Carson’s work deeply with my time at both UCSD and CalArts. Even now she is a writer I return to over and over again. I’ve always appreciated the hybridity of her forms and the permission she gives herself to open up a text in such a way that same work can be studied as fiction, essay, poetry, or translation. I was first introduced to her work through, If Not, Winter, her collection of Sappho translations. She uses empty brackets to represent lost text, burnt papyri—that act of materializing absence—I think it changed me as a writer and reader.

 
 
 
 
 
 

GALWhat is the power of story?
 

SC: This is a hard one! Narratives are simultaneously escapist and a way into ourselves. At their best, powerful narratives can bring about both self-awareness of the construction of our own real-life narratives and also provide a way to transcend them. I think People of Paper by Salvador Plascencia is a good example of this. I don’t want to give too much away about the narrative twist that happens in the middle of the book, but it’s brilliant.

 
 
20160323_GL009_saehee_063.jpg
 
 
 
 
 


GAL: Would you say the power of a story ever rolls over into your catering company SOO N food and the intricate meals you prepare? If so, what is your process when creating food if it is led by text?


SC: I would say that my food process mimics the act of writing. A plate is a composition and a meal is a narrative. I think because of my background I automatically think about cooking as an art practice. It’s not simply about the food on the plate. There’s a drafting process, an editing process, even a workshopping process. Cooking feels almost sculptural to me in this way—like I’m sculpting little edible poems.

 
 


GAL: With your business picking up, how often would you say you read?
 

SC: I read every day but in spurts. Because I’m in a phase where I’m mostly reading poetry, it’s easy for me to pick up a book for 5 minutes and then go back to kitchen work.

 
 
 


GAL: Do you have a current—or “forever”—favorite book?


SC: A “forever” favorite seems like an impossible thing to name, but for now I will say Bluets by Maggie Nelson.

 
 
 


GALWho is your favorite author? 


SCSarah Shun-Lien Bynum, both for her incredible writing and also for being the person who encouraged me to pursue writing in the first place.

 
 
 


GAL: We have a friend who has a “Sanity Shelf” dedicated to books she returns to again and again, to re-read for pleasure, knowledge, and solace. What books would be on your Sanity Shelf?
 

SC: The Beauty of The Husband by Anne Carson

 

Bluets by Maggie Nelson

 

My Life by Lyn Hejinian

 

Palm-of- the-Hand by Yasunari Kawabata

 

Dictee by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha

 
 
 
 
 
 
 


GAL: Is it important to you to physically hold a book you read? Or can you read on a device, without impacting the experience?
 

I wish I could read on a device (very practical!) but I’m too much of a romantic to give up on the physical object of the book. I love the feel of the paper, dog-eared pages, the way books age when we love them. You just don’t get that kind of character from a screen…
 

GAL: How do you choose the books you read? Have you found a strategy that works?
 

SC: If I find a writer that I really love, I tend to read all of their work, one book after the other. I also get great recommendations from friends who are avid readers too.


GAL: Do you have a current favorite reading spot?  Where is it?


SC: Right now, I like reading in bed the best.
 

GAL: Or—can you read anywhere—place is not important?


SC: I think a good place to read can definitely enhance the experience. The way the ambiance of a restaurant is important or the low-key buzzy feeling of that perfect bar—the conditions have to be right.
 

 
 
 
 
 
 


GALFiction VS Non-Fiction?
 

SC: Both! Also, poetry!


GAL: If you read non-fiction, what genre do you prefer?
 

SC: I’ve been enjoying the criticism and memoir coming out from Graywolf Press. Specifically I am thinking of The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson and On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss.


GAL: If you were to write your memoir, what would you title it?


SC: “In Search of the The Perfect French Fry: A Life” (I’m joking but I’m not joking).

 
 
 
 
 
 
 


GALPlease name a few books you recommend reading, and the reasons for your choices.

 

SC:  A. Because these will melt your brain
(also B. and C.):

 

Citizen by Claudia Rankine

 

Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson

 

2500 Things About Me Too by Matias Viegener

 

Humanimal by Bhanu Kapil

 


B. Because these will break your heart (also A. and C.):
Reconsolidation: Or it’s the ghosts who will answer you by Janice Lee

 

The Sad Passions by Veronica Gonzalez Peña

 

Creature by Amina Cain

 

Don’t Let Me Be Lonely by Claudia Rankine

 
 
 


C. Because these are fearless (also A. and B.):
Blood and Guts in High School: A Novel by Kathy Acker

 

Impossible Princess by Kevin Killian

 

The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch

 

Beauty & Sadness by Yasunari Kawabata

 

For more on Saehee's writing, head to her website.
Also check out the soo n food & her company TENZO.

All photos are courtesy of Lauren Pisano. Please do not use without her express permission.