The Story of Mipa Lee & Plant
Mipa Lee was born in Busan, South Korea, but lived a very international childhood, growing up in Ghana, the Ivory Coast, the UK, and the USA. After returning to Korea in 2006 with a degree in design, she began wrestling with the environmental impact of consuming animals, which eventually led to her personal conviction to live and eat more compassionately. Upon adopting a plant-based lifestyle in 2009 and also struggling to settle into her new life in Korea, Mipa recognized a lack of resources for fellow English-speaking vegetarians and vegans. While working as a full-time editor for an English hakwon, Mipa began spending her free time writing a blog for expats in Korea entitled ‘Alien’s Day Out’ which chronicled her life as a new vegan in Seoul, sharing restaurant reviews and resources for other vegans. As the blog grew in readership and popularity, Mipa began experimenting more with vegan baking and cooking, sharing recipes on her blog, baking for and organizing fundraisers for animal shelters, and even launching an online shop where she was baking out of her tiny studio apartment and shipping vegan muffins, cookies, and poundcakes all over the country. She also began baking vegan cakes for several coffee shops and even a gourmet supermarket, further proving that there was a growing demand for cruelty-free treats in Korea.
After several years of blogging and successfully operating the online business, the opportunity finally came for Mipa to open up a small store-front in the back alleyways of Itaewon, named Plant. Upon first opening its doors in July 2013, Plant was buoyed by the support of loyal blog readers and the Seoul veg community, foreigners and Koreans alike. Over the next four years, business steadily grew to the point where the operation had well out-grown its tiny kitchen and dining room of twelve seats. Then in 2017, after patiently waiting for the perfect opportunity, Mipa was able to expand the restaurant to a much larger space which is now Plant Café & Kitchen, while preserving the original space as the Plant Bakery.
Though the Alien’s Day Out blog is no longer online, Mipa now spends her time operating the two shops with the help of her Plant team. Her unrelenting attention to detail and the desire to see every detail come to life is evident in every part of Plant, from menu concept and quality of food, to the customer experience and ambiance. Mipa also maintains her dedication to spreading the goodness of vegan food. It is her goal to demonstrate that vegan food is not just a health fad or a diet, but something to be incorporated into everyday life, for everybody. Dietary perfection, purity, and restriction are never the goal, but abundance, kindness, equality, and love.
Alex Saghir, Head Chef, GM
Having grown up in the kitchen, Alex's passion for cooking started at an early age. While he was studying in Malaysia, he worked in a few resort kitchens where he was first exposed to food and cooking. After graduating with a BA in Mechanical Engineering, his love of food inspired him to travel around various East Asian countries, discovering more flavors and cuisines. Upon his return to Europe, he actively pursued his cooking career, starting at various restaurants where he developed and refined his culinary techniques.
In 2012, Alex decided to move to South Korea. Here, he spent time working at some of Seoul's top hotels, and even enjoyed the opportunity to work at Pierre Gagnaire's two Michelin star restaurant in Seoul. Then in 2017, Alex joined Plant with the desire to learn more about vegan food. Throughout his journey into vegan cuisine, he has enjoyed the challenge of creating various best-selling menu items such as Plant's pasta menu line, mushroom burger, avocado burger, various specials, and more. After some time as sous chef, in 2019, he was named Head Chef and General Manager of Plant.
Alex believes flavorful vegan food starts with sourcing the freshest local ingredients. He also likes to create flavors that are inspired from his extensive travels around the world, including but not limited to France, Italy, Spain, China, Thailand, Russia, Morocco, Vietnam, India, and Cuba. He considers it his passion to inspire and educate people about vegan food and the importance of using fresh, seasonal ingredients.
Youri Choe, Chef
currently on maternity leave
Born and raised in the Washington DC area, Youri Choe nurtured a love for all things food from a young age. She started by eating her mother’s Korean home cooking, and went on to throwing elaborate dinner parties for her friends starting in high school. While living in Brooklyn, NY, Chef Youri worked in multiple facets of the food and service industry, including wedding planning/catering and working as a buyer for a premium grocery store. In 2010, Chef Youri decided to move to South Korea to explore her culture and to teach English. Five years later she finally decided to make things official and enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu at Sookmyung Women’s University, graduating with a culinary certificate in classic French cuisine. In 2016, she started working at Plant. During her time at Plant, she also spent a year studying traditional Korean temple food at the Jogyesa affiliated Cultural Corps of Korean Buddhism Center in order to deepen her knowledge of vegan cooking techniques.
Chef Youri believes that plant-based options should be more prevalent and easily accessible to everyone, whether or not you adhere to a vegan lifestyle. Her cuisine leans towards comfort food borrowed from various cultures and is decidedly not fussy. She strives to make well-seasoned, hearty and nutritionally balanced vegan food that will be craved by vegan and non-vegan diners alike.