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Seoul Brothers blends southern favorites and Korean heritage

A brother and sister duo are using traditional Korean recipes to put a new spin on foods they grew up on in Tennessee.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Food is the way to the heart, and for some, the "Seoul."

The sibling duo behind Seoul Brothers inside Marble City Market use their menu to share their unique heritage. Co-owners Vic Scott and Josh Coates grew up in the Tri-Cities in a blended household, mixing Korean tradition and heritage with an East Tennessee upbringing.

"It's all rooted in our mother. Josh learning the recipes from her when we were kids, it's the memories of growing up in the south and, you know, fusing Korean flavors into dishes we already loved from school and things our friends ate," said Scott.

The kimchi served at the restaurant is made from a family recipe and tops anything from rice bowls to french fries. Finding success with their menu has been a dream come true for the siblings.

"Being able to share our flavors, of our childhood, with other people and having them enjoy them and experience them for the first time is really just great," he said.

While the pair is successful enough to expand to two other concepts, a second storefront inside Marble City Market and a kitchen inside Pretentious Beer Co., they weren't always sure they'd find a warm reception.

"Being in the heart of the south and there not being a large Asian population, we ate things at home people had no idea what it was. When you pack your lunch to go to school and your mom packs gimbap and you open your lunch box at school and people go, 'Eww, what is that?' it's an experience a lot of people of Asian heritage have at some point in their life," said Scott. 

Despite trepidation, the pair started their venture with a food truck. On their first day serving food, they sold out in just under two hours. 

"It was almost instantaneous tears, it really hit me in the heart," Scott said.

She reflects on their early days fondly, grateful for the support of East Tennessee.

Scott has now started a non-profit called the Knox AAPI Business Association with co-founder Jessica Carr, of Girls Gotta Eat Good, to help other Asian American businesses find resources to operate and grow. 

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