On June 17, the Mukilteo police department reported that a diver had gone missing in the waters near Lighthouse Park in Mukilteo. Yesterday, the diver was identified as Hans Korompis, the director of Shubert Ho’s Market restaurants, a 33-year-old chef who Ho and co-workers say had a profound effect on the restaurant community in Seattle.
Though there is no funeral planned at the moment, Ho says the search and recovery effort for Korompis is no longer active, and family members have organized a GoFundMe to cover expenses his family has incurred. It raised over $19,000 in one day, just one sign of the outsized impact the chef has had on the restaurant community in the Seattle area. The Mukilteo police department did not respond to a request for information at the time of publication and Korompis’s family is not currently talking to the media.
Korompis started working for Ho’s restaurant group seven years ago as a line cook at Salt & Iron, where coworkers immediately recognized his potential as a chef and leader. Alex Marek, who was the Salt & Iron chef who hired him, says Korompis was one of the best hires he’d ever made. “He clearly had a way of being in the kitchen that inspired everyone around him,” Marek says. Korompis had an air of calmness too, that made it look like he wasn’t working hard when he was outpacing everyone else on the line.
“We all still try to work like Hans. It was just a really admirable thing,” Marek says.
After being hired as a line cook, Korompis quickly became the lead line cook while doing a Hainanese chicken pop-up called Han’s Chicken Rice on Fridays and Saturdays at the Shoreline and Queen Anne farmers markets.
In 2018, Ho was ready to expand his restaurant group. Knowing that he wanted Korompis to spearhead the expansion, he decided to “build a restaurant for [Korompis], not the other way around.” The venture turned into Market, probably Ho’s most successful business, which now has four locations in the Seattle area. He attributes the brand’s success to Korompis’s leadership and culinary vision, which Korompis started to develop while growing up in Indonesia and Singapore before moving to the U.S. when he was 20. To Ho, a second-generation Asian American, Korompis “epitomized the Asian American dream” by finding success for his family and contributing to society in a meaningful way.
Beyond the success Korompis brought to Ho’s restaurant group, Marek says he was a leader who brought out the best in his staff, mentoring chefs to reach their full potential. Many of the current general managers and chefs across the restaurant group were trained by Korompis, and about 100 employees worked directly with him.
Korompis’s culinary footprint in Seattle remains in the dishes served at the Market locations, including the internet-famous lobster roll that can be found at the Seattle Art Museum, one of the cultural centers of the city. The people he worked with, and the Seattle restaurant community (especially the many Asian American chefs he was friends with) are in a state of grieving.
Korompis’s family left the following note on the GoFundMe page dedicated to him: “We still hope and pray Hans would come back to us one day, so we could all send him off properly. It is the least he deserved. However, even if he doesn’t, let’s not be too hard on ourselves/yourselves, because he never liked to trouble other people, and is doing what he loves — traveling around the world.”