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Community Highlights: Meet Greg Stears of Smoke n Seoul

Today we’d like to introduce you to Greg Stears.

Hi Greg, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
I was working an engineering job when we had the idea for this truck. My wife is Korean raised in NYC by immigrants and was making a traditional Korean dish called bibimbap for my family. For convenience sake, she used ground beef this evening rather than something fancier and the dish still turned out quite tasty, which got my head spinning. Next thing I know, I’ve gone from dreaming of smoked brisket bibimbap to a whole dang KC/Korean-inspired menu.

While some ideas can fade away with time, it became clear that this one would not be going away. So it was up to us to figure out how to start our own food business despite not having any experience in food or business! We asked my friend Matt to partner up with us to build the business and from there, it’s been lesson after lesson to learn along the way, dealing with all the unforeseen challenges of starting a business, plus throwing a pandemic in on top!

So far, we’re making it and people seem to love what we’re bringing to the local food scene!

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
Absolutely not! Fortunately, the obstacles have never been about the quality of our food.

We launched in early February 2020, right before the pandemic but that wasn’t our first challenge. The turnout for our first event was massive, which was great but we got our butts kicked in the process. We were not prepared for this baptism by fire.

Three weeks later, our truck broke down and a new engine was needed. We were essentially shut down for a month before we could even start, only to find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic by the time we got the truck back in late March!

It took some time to find our sea legs but our food was a hit and we are very lucky to be in a business that is still viable in a pandemic.

For now, our challenges are much more traditional for building a business, such as when to add people and figuring out what our next steps should be.

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
We pride ourselves in bringing new, creative food to Kansas City that both embraces what makes our city special while at the same time pushing boundaries to make it an even better place. There is no better way to bring people together than through food, and we take this to heart. This particular blend of flavors brings all sorts of folks together, from the farmer to the war veteran to the immigrant, and we find a lot of meaning in that. Aside from serving food that is flat-out good, we think it’s our vision that makes us unique.

Networking and finding a mentor can have such a positive impact on one’s life and career. Any advice?
Speaking as someone who doesn’t always adhere to this, check your freaking ego at the door. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and admit that you don’t always know what you’re doing. We are still very new to all of this and this is something I still really struggle with.

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Image Credits
Photos taken by Smoke n Seoul

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