Jackson Hole, WY News

Bapp

Owner and head chef Hyunnam Kim Degman at her restaurant Bapp.

I met Kim Degman in the summer of 2012 at the tiny little window space that was the beginning of Kim’s Corner. Right there in Powderhorn Plaza she told me she wanted to have a restaurant some day.

“Some day” has come.

Bapp opened on West Broadway in early February. Now she might be asking, “What was I thinking?” Opening a restaurant is hard, with innumerable decisions and details to bring together. Working to get it right is important. Sleep comes later.

When Degman left Seoul, South Korea, to come to the United States as part of a student exchange program in 2003, she asked for Yellowstone National Park as her destination. She got a job at Dornan’s in Moose. That summer she worked with Matthew Degman, now her husband. She returned to Seoul, completed her studies in computer science, taught math and went to culinary school.

Degman’s cuisine and urge to please have been recognized and applauded since Kim’s Corner opened in January 2011. In the fall of 2012 she moved her business to the Snow King Ice Rink. There are always good friends looking out for her. Indeed, a friend let her know of the available space. There she gained a somewhat larger space and a much wider audience.

Traditional Korean dishes have always been Degman’s focus, and yet burgers, BLTs and fries appeared on Kim’s Corner menu to please the multitude of kids who frequent the sports arena. Fans of her breakfast offerings follow her to her new ventures.

“It is important to me to represent my culture,” Degman said. “Not many people know Korean food. It takes a while to get used to it.”

By the end of the winter of 2017-18, after achieving maximum productivity at the facility at the ice rink, Degman needed a break. She ended the tenure at Snow King. She went to Los Angeles to rest, replenish, gain some perspective on her life. She wasn’t sure of her career direction. Cooking for a living is very hard work. Was that what she really wanted to do?

Degman explored by working in several restaurants. She recalled her excitement in discovery: “I would say to myself that I wanted to take that technique and that particular dish back to make in Jackson.”

She smiled.

“That confirmed I wanted to continue to cook.”

Last October friends brought her the news of the available space on West Broadway. It was once the site of a Chevron station, then Kentucky Fried Chicken, then became Ocean City Bistro.

The Degmans together created Bapp, a word that can mean either “rice” or “a meal.” They remodeled everything from ceiling to floor and have done a marvelous job. The choices of colors, textures and lines add up to a most pleasing environment, peaceful to the senses.

For those new to Korean food, Bapp is delicious enough that it will be easy to get used to it. That will be a new mission for me. We started our dinner with the delicately flavored shrimp spinach Jeon, pancake style. Kimchi Jeon and chicken wings in K-red sauce are other starter options.

Bibimbap is a traditional rice dish served in three styles, as was carefully explained to me by our helpful server. We chose the No. 3 variety, which is salad-like, served cold with a mound of greens and vegetables served on top of rice. Spicy tuna was our protein choice. It was very satisfying. Miso soup comes with rice dishes. It is nourishing and enjoyable as well as aids digestion.

We wished to try some barbecue. We saved spicy pork and LA Galbi-Beef for another visit and selected Bapp Galbi beef short-rib served with rice, house salad and side dishes. It was tender and tasty. As we wished to have some kimchi fried rice, our shared recipe, we had plenty of food. We savored what we could and took some for next-day nourishment. We came away as very happy people. 

Bru, who cooks for private clients, writes about the valley’s talented chefs.

Scene Editor Billy Arnold covers arts and entertainment. He apprenticed as a sound engineer at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland, Ohio before making his way to Jackson, where he has become a low-key fan of country music.

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