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I-Ho Pomeroy named semifinalist for James Beard Foundation's Outstanding Restauranteur award

I HO outside .jpg
Posted at 8:20 AM, Jan 27, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-27 10:20:08-05

BOZEMAN — I-Ho Pomeroy, owner of I-Ho's Korean Grill, has recently been named a semifinalist by the James Beard Foundation for the 2024 Outstanding Restaurateur award in the Mountain region.

“After I married, I find out I like to cook, and then he made my food cart,” says I-Ho.

Originating as a handmade food cart, long before they were ever popular in Bozeman, I-Ho's has been a Bozeman staple for almost 25 years, and it was an instant hit.

“I made a lot of money and I did so well I never planned on having a restaurant in my life,” I-Ho says.

Pomeroy, 65 years old, is the woman who started it all. An incredibly hard worker and a huge part of her community, having served as city commissioner for 10 years, it's no wonder she has been chosen as a semi-finalist for the James Beard Award.

“Very humbled” is how I-Ho says she feels after this nomination.

Since 1990, the James Beard Awards have recognized chefs, restaurateurs, authors, and journalists for their excellence throughout the United States. But I-Ho is an inspiration in and out of the kitchen.

“Two cancers, Glioblastoma and pancreatic cancer—it's pretty hard,” I-Ho tells us.

After being diagnosed last spring, I-Ho has unfortunately had to stop doing what she loves.

Jin Ju, daughter of I-Ho, says, “My mom retired when she got sick so I took over the restaurant.”

Luckily, Jin-Ju has been writing down her mother's recipes for the last 23 years, including her famous kimchi, and she tells us what goes into the sauce.

“There's apples, pears, ginger, garlic, onions—all in this kimchi sauce.”

Jin-Ju says her mother “had everything in her head and nothing written down.”

A skill that impressed many.

“I mean, you do it every day multiple times a day for 25 years," Jin-Ju says.

Working under such an accomplished restauranter, Jin-Ju knows she has some big shoes to fill.

"It's daunting, of course,” she says.

But she couldn't be more proud of her mother, for her accomplishments as well as being such a good role model growing up.

"She has put in so much heart and soul into this restaurant and community, so I am very happy to see her get recognized for that,” Jin-Ju says.

And even after the cancer diagnosis, I-Ho has managed to remain positive.

"My husband said, 'You’re lucky.' Before cancer meant death but now because of technology people survive,” she says.

Still trying to work as much as she can while battling this cancer, it's no wonder she is a semifinalist for Outstanding Restaurateur.

"We made it,” I-Ho says.