An insightful look into Kami

An insightful look into Kami

Kalie Murphy

A car streaks around a corner—the driver unable to stop—and crashes head-on into the building, plowing into middle of the restaurant. In the immediate aftermath, Liberty students worried that they had lost a cherished part of their community: Kami Teriyaki.

Two months later Kami is back to serving students; the restaurant reopened at the beginning of March, and the Liberty community let out a sigh of relief at the return to normalcy. The owners have expressed serious gratitude that no one was seriously injured, noting that damage is easily repaired but one’s life cannot be brought back once taken away. Only after the crash can the Liberty community fully appreciate the unique institution that is Kami Teriyaki.

The business has been owned by the Jeong family for about ten years. It is currently owned by Eui-jo and Insoon Jeong, who are helped by their daughters Jane and Jenny Jeong. Jane is the famous “Kami Girl” who has been nameless to the Liberty community since she started working behind the counter in 2009.

Kami was founded by Jae Kim and his wife Chin-sook Kim in 2002. Jae Kim turned the business over to his brother Eui-jo Jeong and his wife Insoon Jeong six years ago. The owners mentioned the difficulty of adjusting to American lifestyle. When they arrived from South Korea, it was difficult for the family to adapt to American culture when they struggled with the language barrier.

Many immigrants, after moving to the United States know little to no English, and therefore are unable to get high paying jobs.  Most jobs that they acquire are high labor and low pay. In these jobs, they can broaden their knowledge of the English language and American culture. This was no different for the Jeong family.

“For Asian immigrants, a teriyaki business suits ethnic characteristics of diligence and sacrifice for family and future generations,” Jenny Jeong said. “I think my uncle chose to create a teriyaki business for these reasons.”

Ever since the restaurant was founded, there has been a strong connection to Liberty. DECA has been catering from Kami for the past nine years, bringing the popular food to students who cannot yet drive off campus for lunch.

“Kami Teriyaki has been very supportive of our DECA program here at Liberty,” DECA advisor Chris Gapinski said. “We continue to serve popular dishes including Chicken Teriyaki and Fried Rice to Liberty students.”

Most of the customers at Kami Teriyaki are Liberty students and families, who often continue being faithful to Kami after they graduate.

“I would like to thank the Liberty community and our loyal customers for supporting us and making our time serving you guys fun and enjoyable,” Jenny Jeong said.

The Jeong family seeks to provide a friendly environment for their customers because they truly enjoy running the small business. They feel that it is their duty to serve customers with respect and make every single one of them feel as comfortable as possible. Though Kami is one of the thousands of businesses in the area, the environment and the support around it is what makes it truly special and important to the Liberty community.

“I love Kami Teriyaki because it is a warm and inviting place with friendly people and delicious food,” freshman Sonja McGough said.