Spice of life: Dressing destiny for local woman

About 17 years ago, Eileen Park left a successful TV graphics design career in New York City and followed her husband, a successful plastic surgeon at UVA, to Charlottesville to raise a family.

"Just like that, I went from a career woman in NYC to a wife of so and so and mother of so and so," says Park. "Back then, Route 29 was a two-lane road, the Downtown Mall was a deserted area where a few brave souls would venture, and there was one TV station that kept its on-air look for over 30 years– death to my career."

Over time, Park says, she got used to her new life, but she could not give up the idea of having a project that would satisfy her entrepreneurial spirit.

As a child, she says, the typical lemonade stand became a craft stand, then a jewelery stand, then trips to festivals and fairs. In college she hand-painted T-shirts, drying them in her small apartment, and sold them to students and faculty. Eventually, after friends and family kept complimenting her on the soy sauce-based dressings she made, a light went on. 

"My family and friends always gathered for social events with food at the center," says Park. "Being the Americanized Koreans, just like our language–switching from English to Korean in mid-sentence– our food recipes were also fused with the two cultures."

After some experimentation, Park created "Soycha," her signature dressing, and began bottling it in 2007. Palcha (Korean for "Destiny") Products was born.  

"American ingredients work well with Soycha, the original flavor, as well as your typical Asian ingredient salads," says Park. "For instance, I have some salads that include cheese (which the Asians don't put in salads), and then I'll have rice or grains in my salads which the Asians do mix with greens. Then there is Chilicha, a spicy salad dressing that seems to surprise a lot of my American customers– but not the Asians."

Locally, Park's dressings are available at Foods of all Nations, Rebecca's, Blue Ridge Country Store, C'ville Market, Virginia Shop, The Happy Cook, and Anderson's Carriage Food House. However, Park says her products are now available at Whole Foods stores across Virginia and Maryland. There's also a website: palcha.com

Next year, Park says, she plans to introduce the seasoned soy sauces as well as a wild game and meat sauce.

"I hope to create recipes for these categories, and also keep true to my cultural flavors," says Park.