Exotic spices and exciting techniques are all good and fun, but nothing tastes better than a dish made with love!

Known for her appearances on Top Chef Canada and the Food Network’s Wall of Chefs, Jinhee Lee has rocked the Calgary restaurant scene with JinBar, an ode to casual Korean dining – but it wasn’t without a ton of hard work.

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A post shared by Jinhee Lee (@chefjinhee)

“I actually came to Canada to take the TESL program,” Lee told Curiocity, adding that she fell hard for the country and wanted to start a career here.

“I went to SAIT and did a tour of the school to see what program would suit my interests. I walked into the kitchen and one chef did a demo and I got goosebumps. I just wanted to be like him.”

The very next day she signed up and while she had never planned on being a chef, the industry became her everything. “That day changed my life,” she said.

After she graduated from the program, Lee got a job at Hotel Arts under Duncan Ly, a prominent and knowledgeable chef in Calgary

Over the course of seven years, she worked her way up, fine-tuning her skillset and entering competitions. It was at one of these competitions she was noticed by Food Network execs.

“Top Chef Canada reached out to me,” she explained. “I’m not really a TV person. I’m not really outgoing, but they said to just try, it’ll be fun.”

Lee successfully applied and while she was nervous, claimed it was an incredible experience, though tiring – especially because she was working at a new restaurant at the time.

“After all the TV shows, and the opening of Foreign Concept, and doing competitions I was really exhausted. I took almost a year off.”

During this time, Lee went to Korea and stayed there during the pandemic.

Luckily for us foodies, it was her time in the country, grabbing takeout and later eating at exciting restaurants, that inspired her to open her own place here in Calgary.

Lee’s most ordered dish at JinBar


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A post shared by JINBARYYC (@jinbaryyc)

“Before I didn’t really do authentic Korean food, I did more Canadian cuisine, but I wanted to bring Korean cooking techniques and the flavour to Calgary.”

Described as casual, fun, and exciting JinBar was born of the idea that high-end food could be enjoyed in a pair of jeans with your friends.

Occupying a beautiful 100-year-old heritage building, this restaurant serves late-night and comfort eats – their most popular dish being Korean fried chicken.

“Korean fried chicken is a little different than KFC or other Westernized chicken. Korean chicken is usually covered in sauce so it’s extra crispy… we marinade it overnight, then we double-fry it.”

Lee’s personal favourite


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A post shared by JINBARYYC (@jinbaryyc)

As for Lee’s favourite? She says while the pizza is great and covered in everything from sweet corn to bulgogi – she’s with the customers.

“Oh yeah, the fried chicken,” she told us. “It’s easy to share and you can try the different flavours.”

Of course, she also had to share her choice sauce with us as well.

“I can take spice, so I prefer the dragon’s breath – which is made with different chilli powder like gochugaru.”

Would we recommend it? If you can’t take the heat, maybe stick with the mild flavours – but consider it on those ‘braver’ days!

JinBar is open in Bridgeland from 7 days a week from, 4:30 pm to 10 pm – so get to it, Calgary!

Heck, maybe we’ll see you guys there!

JinBar, Calgary

Where: 24 4 St NE Calgary, AB T2E 3R7