Peter Chung, co-owner of Mukja Korean Fried Chicken restaurant, has a lot to celebrate. The Georgia Tech Scheller undergraduate alum accomplished one of his bucket list items when he and his business partner, Sean Chang, were included in Atlanta Inno’s “25 Under 25” list in 2020 for the founding of their restaurant. In the same year, the duo was included on the “Rising Stars” list by the Georgia Restaurant Association.
"I got the call and had tears in my eyes. It was a dream come true,” Chung said. “I thought opening a restaurant at a young age was an accomplishment. But opening a restaurant during Covid and having people notice it is the most rewarding part. It’s been amazing to show our Korean culture and get recognized for it.”
Mukja Is Born
Chung and Chang were college roommates as they pursued their undergraduate studies. Chung went to Scheller and majored in finance, while Chang went to Georgia State. Chang loved to cook and was always in the kitchen cooking meals using his family recipes. One day, he tried something new and made fried chicken that was so good the two joked about opening a restaurant one day.
As their friends came over to try out the fried chicken, Chung and Chang realized they may have something on their hands. It wasn’t until a Michelin-star chef came over and said, “This fried chicken is a hit.”
That compliment was all the duo needed to realize they should go into business together and open up their own Korean fried chicken restaurant. After they graduated from college in 2019, Chung said the stars aligned and they formed their company, C&C Hospitality Group, and Mukja Korean Fried Chicken was born.
Chung and Chang formed C&C Hospitality Group to bring awareness to Korean food and culture. The two best friends are from South Korea and grew up in the Southern U.S. They wanted Mukja — which translates to “Let’s Eat” in Korean — to blend their two identities to create something new.
Walking into Mukja you’re greeted by images of the food displayed on the wall to convey visual menus and a black and white mural that features Atlanta staples such as a peach, a Coke bottle, and a MARTA train. The words “Let’s Eat” translated in Korean are at the center of the mural to harmoniously blend Korean and American cultures. The restaurant exudes the warm and inviting atmosphere Chung said they wanted to create.
“The motto at Mukja is ‘good food, good times, and good people,’” said Chung. “That’s the impression we want the restaurant to leave on people. A place where you can hang with friends, enjoy chicken and beer, and have a good time.”
The Scheller alum credits learning the fundamentals of business and the strong community he experienced at the College for solidifying his dream of becoming an entrepreneur.
“The ability to talk with people who owned startups and network with them was beneficial for my growth as an entrepreneur. I was able to interact with business owners and potential business owners to learn from other people’s real-world perspectives, struggles, and accomplishments,” he said. “It was a great environment, and I think it fostered a lot of my entrepreneurial spirit.”
Strong Bonds and Culture Awareness
Even though Chung has a lot to celebrate, he said opening during the pandemic was a challenge. It taught him having a strong team is fundamental to a business’s success. When Mukja opened, they wanted to cultivate an environment and culture where employees feel valued and want to stay. Their mission to create that environment proved to be successful. Their team’s loyalty and dedication helped them survive the pandemic.
“We would not have made it through the pandemic without them,” he said. “The value of having good, strong, and dependable team members will help you steer the ship.”
Having a reliable business partner has also helped with the restaurant’s success, Chung says. When starting a business, the consensus is to avoid going into business with friends. The opposite is true for Mukja. Chung credits his and Chang’s strong friendship as a big reason why the restaurant thrives. They built their business on the foundation of friendship, love, respect, and loyalty.
When they were planning out the restaurant, Chang was going to be a chef, but a car accident left him paralyzed from the waist down. He now uses a wheelchair. Chung says that was a difficult time for Chang as he faced a lot of personal struggles, but Chung was always there for him. That shared experience created a bond of respect and loyalty between the two.
Chung is happy that Mukja allows them to spread awareness of their Korean American culture in Atlanta. They get calls and emails all the time thanking them for representing the Korean American and Asian American communities.
“It’s been rewarding for me because I get to push our culture out into the world and say our voices matter,” he said. “We matter.”
Mukja Korean Fried Chicken is located at 933 Peachtree Street Suite #951, Atlanta, GA 30309.