JAE WOO | PROPRIETOR
Being a restaurateur isn’t merely an entrepreneurial journey for Jae Woo, it’s something embedded deep within her DNA. As a young girl growing up in Portland, Oregon, she spent many evenings doing homework and keeping a watchful eye on her younger brother at her parents bustling restaurant. While her mom and dad were busy working the front-of-the-house as well as the heart-of-the-house, Jae was watching, observing and learning taking mental notes – even if she didn’t realize it at the time.
After high school, Jae headed south enrolling in Santa Clara University where she received a B.S. in Finance and later a M.S. in Integrated Marketing from Northwestern University. In the meantime, her parents continued running their restaurants while Jae pursued a career in the corporate world.
While she didn’t have any ruby slippers to guide her back to her roots, she discovered that there really is “no place like home” and returned to Portland to help manage her family’s restaurant business. What Jae learned all those nights spent studying and babysitting within the four walls of her parents’ restaurant was that family-owned businesses can impact a community and its people in so many ways – something her corporate employers were lacking.
For the next eight years Jae played an instrumental role in the family business while dreaming owning and operating a restaurant of her own one day, one that would showcase her father’s food and traditions. She would name it Otosan, which means “father” in Japanese, and it would be located in Southern California.
This millennial’s dream became a reality in 2019 when she signed a lease on a prime retail space at 2nd + PCH in Long Beach, just a sandal-toss from the city’s picturesque Alamitos Bay. Otosan focuses on quality ingredients with thoughtful and sincere service coupled with a menu that is sophisticated yet approachable. The techniques and food preparation are grounded in tradition with a menu that feels fresh and familiar all at the same time.
“People kept telling me that Otosan was too hard to pronounce,” said Jae. “But to me, it felt just right. This restaurant is really a love letter to my dad who taught me everything I know about bringing great food into people’s lives. Even though he’ll be up in Portland overseeing his other restaurants, my dad will continue to inspire and guide me as I embark on this new and exciting journey.”
CULINARY TEAM | PROFILES
CAROLYN DINH | PASTRY CHEF
After earning a bachelor’s degree from San Diego State University in Business Management and enrolling at Orange Coast College for the Advanced Baking and Pastry Arts program, Chef Carolyn Dinh decided to turn her culinary passion into a lifetime journey.
“I love making people happy and excited through their palate,” says Chef Carolyn. “Seeing their faces light up after enjoying something that I’ve created never gets old. Food is such a blessing and an experience that should be fully enjoyed. It is much more than just a means of survival.”
This native Californian credits her parents and family with giving her the opportunities and support that they never had. While she now resides in Orange County, Chef Carolyn has lived in exotic places such as Bali and Hawaii which contributes to her culinary style and flavor influences. When she’s not in front of a flour-covered table, you’ll find her enjoying the great outdoors hiking, biking or just enjoying a leisurely day at the beach.