August 3, 2021
Family Moments: Restaurant & Home Life with The Chos
As parents of two young children and owners of the popular Han Oak restaurant in Portland, OR, Chef Peter Cho and his wife, Sun Park, know that balancing home and work life is both challenging and rewarding -- especially when your home and restaurant share the same space.
We recently joined the Chos for a virtual tour and talk about parenting, self-care, and balancing priorities in support of whole family health.
Check out a few of our favorite family moments from our visit with Peter, Sun, Elliott, and Francis below:
On Making a Change
“I worked as a chef in New York for about 10 years. I found myself learning and growing a lot but not spending much time to see my family. When we found out that my mom was sick, I was ready to leave. I was ready to come home and start a family of my own while figuring out how to continue being a chef. We are fortunate to have our own business and make our own decisions while prioritizing family." - Peter Cho
On Blending Home and Work
“We made a handshake deal with our amazing landlord, who helped us work through all of the permitting and paperwork to create a space where Peter would be able to be a chef and a present father- something that is incredibly hard to do for people in his line of work.” - Sun Park
“[Making GQ Magazine’s list of best restaurants in America] was something that we really needed. We went into this blindly with a hope of just keeping our family together... We needed that to be what our lives revolved around -- being present for our kids, and that will always be a reminder to just allow ourselves to be who we want to be and not be dictated by the dominant culture structure.” - Sun Park
“What I thought was important in my life, what my career path was going to be or how I was going to raise my family, never involved my community as deeply as it does after having children, and even more so after year 2020. I think this space allows everyone’s -- whether you're a young adult, a mother or a child, a grandparent or senior citizen -- presence is known and valued. Multigenerational relationships are fostered here. We all have a deeper understanding of each other, a respect for differences and an appreciation for the value that we all bring to the table in our own way.” - Sun Park
“This is our restaurant, but it is also our home. This is where we've raised two rambunctious toddlers, welcomed upwards of 10,000 people through our door, and fed them.
The reason for essentially ‘working from home’ was that we needed to prioritize family. Peter's mom had been diagnosed with stage four breast cancer and we moved to Portland to be emotional and physical support for her. A year later, we were expecting our first child. All of this came with financial responsibilities. We asked ourselves, ‘How in the world do we start a business now? How can Peter go back into the grind of the restaurant industry that consumes all of his time, the way it did in New York?’ We just couldn't fathom that scenario with what we had on our plate." - Sun Park
On Family Resilience
“No matter what your situation is, it's just hard with children. One of the most heart-affirming reviews that we received wasn't because we provided the finest service or the most delicious food -- it was because we provided an environment where people truly felt welcome in our home.” - Sun Park
“I never really took care of myself before having kids, so I was much worse about doing so after having them. The emotional exhaustion sets in, and I try to convince myself (as many parents do) that if my kids are happy, then I’ll be happy. That's not actually true.
I was always completely depleted of energy before I was able to carve out time for myself, which honestly, never seemed enough anyway.
It took a couple years to finally realize my own needs really do need to be met, and doing so was not selfish. It took another couple years to realize that when I was balanced, the kids were as well. If I'm in a better place, the kids are in a better place. Taking care of yourself is taking care of your kids. That does really happen. It is not selfish.” - Sun Park
On Pivoting During the Pandemic
“For 5 years now, we have been a restaurant and a home, but because of the pandemic, we had to figure out an alternative. We had to open, close, open and close, and it was volatile. We had to open a second restaurant in order to save the first. At this moment, while Han Oak is still closed, we have decided to pivot and turn it into a ceramic studio. I was a working artist before I had kids, and my illustration career was really put to the wayside to make room and prioritize our family and our business. I’m taking this [the pandemic] as an opportunity to get back into the workforce in a way that I hadn’t been able to prior. With the kids just a little bit older, this seems to be one of our few options and it's not a terrible one. The prospect of starting a project where the kids can participate somewhat is exciting. We’ll continue to use this space as a gathering place for friends and family and stay connected to our community. Chef residencies, pop ups, cooking lessons and an internship program for underserved children are on the horizon as well.
Our own personal needs for a creative outlet are easily brushed aside with always more important things to do but it is so important for mental health. If I didn’t have to figure out a different way to generate income in this space, I might have overlooked it completely. Making room for painting and ceramics in my life again has been the most emotionally rewarding and cathartic release I forgot I needed desperately.
The most valuable lesson we’ve learned from becoming a parent, running a business and especially through Covid is the importance of community. There were many times when we couldn’t really help ourselves. We felt failed by the system, and when the bottom fell from under us, our community stepped in. Diners and neighbors donated and ordered religiously, restaurants donated produce boxes, and volunteers delivered them. What little we had for ourselves mentally, physically and monetarily was far more abundant when we all came together to support each other. We bonded in crisis. We’re closer to our community more than ever before and taking care of our community is taking care of our family." - Sun Park
Follow more of Peter, Sun, Elliott, and Francis on Instagram as they navigate home and work life.
Discover ways of your own to support whole child and whole family health in the Kohl’s Healthy at Home resource center!