Job: Co-owner/chef, Heirloom Market BBQ
Relationship Status: Has a boyfriend
A former K-pop star who soured on fame, Jiyeon's second act is sweeter than her first. The co-owner and chef behind Heirloom Market BBQ's mouth-watering spicy Korean pork sandwich spent her teen years catering to a diehard fanbase during her four-album career. But since arriving in Atlanta in 1999, she's translated her love of music into culinary passion. Though she's glad her pop-star days are behind her, she gets a kick out of the occasional autograph request from Korean customers. "Back then I was a snobby little girl," she says. "Now I'm more humble and I appreciate everything." And just in case you're wondering, she still has the chops.
What's your guiltiest pleasure?
Sometimes I crave french fries too much. I love McDonald's fries.
What's the last thing that made you cry?
I'm very emotional, especially when I see videos of poor kids in other countries. That makes me cry.
What do you wish someone would hurry up and invent?
Something to erase all the porn on the Internet.
What's the lamest pickup line anyone's used on you?
Just staring at me very creepily. Hate it.
Is there a drawback to being attractive?
Sometimes people judge even though they don't know me. Some people think I look very icy. That's partly true, but I appreciate my life.
What's your sexy-time soundtrack?
For some reason, "Hotel California." Always. You know the song, "And I wanna fall in love" [sings the hook from Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game"]? That song is so romantic.
Have you ever been dumped? If so, what was the reason?
Yeah, it happened when I was 13. My first boyfriend dumped me because he said he couldn't focus on his studies. Whatever [laughs].
With whom would you like to play Truth or Dare?
What's your life's ambition/grandest dream?
To be the Martha Stewart of Korea. I love to cook but I love business, too. I want to incorporate those.
What's your own character flaw you'd most like to fix?
My temper; I need to be more patient. Normally I'm very calm. But in some situations when everything is not right, I kind of explode.
What's your standard drink?
I'm not really a drinker, but I love Guinness — maybe because I love coffee. And when I drink wine I drink Riesling. I love sweet wine.
What band were you obsessed with when you were 14?
Queen. Can you imagine?
What's your least favorite household chore?
Ironing. That's hard.
Describe your relationship to exercise.
I walk with my dog every day. She's 75 pounds. When she finds a cat, she jumps so she's hard to control. It's good exercise.
What's the last good book you read?
It was actually a cookbook: Modernist Cuisine. My boyfriend gave it to me for my birthday. It's a big book.
What movie would you most like to live in?
Breakfast at Tiffany's. I love classics.
What's the first album you bought with your own money?
Sade's first album. I love her. She's my favorite of all time.
What's the best way for a customer to hit on you?
Normally I work on the line all the time so I'm very busy. Sometimes I feel somebody staring at me. I just keep working. I have no time to communicate.
Who would play you in the movie of your life?
You know the little girl in Monsters, Inc.? I think she was very cute.
What's the one thing you most hope to accomplish this year?
Steady business. That's my goal not just for me, but for my employees. Personally, I have plans to go to a mission trip to Nepal, so I hope it happens this year.
What's your least favorite thing about Atlanta?
Name one thing you've stolen.
Money from my mom when I was 10. She spanked me so bad. She almost took me to the police station. I don't know if she was serious but I was scared.
Who's the most important person in your life?
Of course my family; they're in Korea. And also my boyfriend and my dog.
What's your pettiest relationship deal-breaker?
I don't like men who talk too much.
What would you order for your last meal
Korean barbecue with a lot of side dishes. If my mom cooked for me that would be the best.
How much would you charge to murder a stranger?
Oh, no way [laughs]. No, that wouldn't happen.
How do you handle rejection?
I believe nothing is forever. So I'm always kind of ready with relationships, with friends or family or love. I just stay ready for that, because nothing is forever.
What did your parents want you to do with your life?
They wanted me to be either a pharmacist or if possible a doctor.
Have you ever stalked someone on Instagram?
How often do you talk to your mother?
Almost every day with the messenger. In Korea we have KakaoTalk. It's like text messaging but you can text to anyone internationally. So we send pictures and messages all the time. You can use it in America, too. It's a free app.
What's your preferred footwear?
I like Skechers a lot because they're comfortable. Normally I wear flat shoes. At work, always kitchen shoes.
What's your wackiest piece of personal trivia?
I have a bad temper, especially at work. I'm a perfectionist so sometimes I kind of explode. I curse, I yell, but it's just for a short time. And everybody understands; they know me so they don't really take it personally. When you handle food you've got to be very particular with everything.
What personal attribute are you a sucker for?
Generosity, not selfishness or self-centeredness. I like smart people who continue to educate themselves. And people who are ambitious and challenge themselves all the time but aren't greedy.
Where would you go on a bucket list vacation?
Last year I went to Spain; it was amazing. I want to go to Italy for the food.
Not counting rent or bills, where does most of your disposable income go?
I don't spend a lot of money. I send money to my mom and dad; that's the biggest. Then I send money to Nepal.
If you had to spend $1 million in one afternoon, what would you do?
I'd maybe donate every single penny to Nepal. I'm an investor in a charity there, so I'd really want to help big-time, maybe build a school or something.
Why do you think someone nominated you for the Lust List?
I have no idea. I really have no idea, but I'm very happy and appreciate this opportunity. It's very fun.