‘Challenging the Chef’ winner promotes Korean fusion foodRecalling the effort he put into preparing for the final round of “Challenging the Chef” over the past 13 weeks, Ju Yeon-woo burst into tears after taking first place. The competition was shown on the Food Channel on Friday.
Out of 1,500 applicants, nine made it into the competition, and all were offered job opportunities. As the top winner, Mr. Ju was awarded a special overseas food tour.
“The examiner (Han Yong-sil, head of the Sookmyung Korean Food Institute) challenged us to come up with unique fusion dishes. It was really hard creating this kind of cuisine,” he said.
Mr. Ju developed two dishes to win the competition: bibimbap mandu ― a dumpling shaped like a bowl and stuffed with bibimbap (mixed meat, vegetables and rice) and garnished with spinach and eggs; and black rice nureungji (scorched rice), made by scorching rice and then adding water and spices to produce a porridge.
“To come up with new ideas, I had to do research on the Internet, at the library, and in bookstores. My parents were on the same mission, trying and evaluating the food I made.”
As a young boy, he enjoyed inviting his friends over and cooked ramen and toast for them. He obtained cooking licenses for Korean and Western cuisine from ShinHeung College’s department of hospitality and tourism management.
He developed expertise at feeding a crowd in a short period of time by working as a cook while in the army and at the Food Service and Distribution Division of Samsung Electronics. To experience the wider world, he left Korea for a backpacking trip after a year.
Traveling in 10 different nations in Europe, Australia and Southeast Asia, he realized that the food sold at Korean restaurants was made to satisfy Koreans only. He then made up his mind to create fusion style Korean food so that the cuisine would become more widely known and popular.
Returning from his trip, he heard about the TV program and decided to take the challenge.
“I want Korean cuisine to be as popular as Japanese or Chinese cuisine,” he said. “With a bit of a change, we can make our cuisine into something foreigners love. Our food is both tasty and healthy.”
by Shin Ye-ri