Student gourmets start own food lesson plan
The only requirements for joining the group were that you had to be a college student and appreciate good food.
Together, the members explored every corner of the city where they could enjoy a good meal. Information that they gathered on each restaurant was posted on their online Web site to be shared with fellow food lovers. The reviews were painstakingly detailed, noting everything from the quality of the food to the service.
The group soon realized how big an impact their critiques were having on the restaurants they reviewed. It didn't matter that they were amateur reviews ― many restaurants experienced increased sales or empty tables because of the words of these critics.
As the group became more well-known, members were often recognized and carefully catered to by restaurateurs, to whom the importance of restaurant reviews is hardly a secret.
Hwang Nam-in, president of the group and a food service management & nutrition major at Sangmyung University, said that the members began to feel a need for change after a year and a half.
“Solely enjoying food without any purpose left us feeling a little empty. We wanted to be more constructive in our approach,” explained Mr. Hwang.
After months of hard work, they devised a comprehensive program aimed at promoting the food service industry and encouraging food lovers. About 7,000 students from 62 colleges applied to join the first “Mattam Leadership Course,” of which 300 were chosen. Mattam is a slang term that translates as “searching for flavor.”
The course is a 12-week program designed to expose participants to aspects of the food service industry and assist in shaping individual career paths. Genesis CEO Yun Hong-geun, Red Mango CEO Roni Choo, Food & Culture Korea CEO Kim Soo-jin and Professors Jin Yang-ho of Kyonggi University and Hong Wan-su of Sangmyung University are among the restaurateurs, professors, and authors invited as guest speakers for weekly seminars. Participants will also engage in research and writing, as well as cooking competitions to increase their knowledge of food, a crucial element in food critiquing.
“If I exaggerate a little, this is the first step for the ‘Seoul College Students' Restaurant Expedition’ to play a pivotal role in the development of Korea's food service industry,” said Mr. Hwang.
Realistically, he adds, the event is to help students find career goals and start their own businesses.
Mr. Hwang hopes the program will expand even further in the future, saying, “When we recruit new members, we'll diversify our program and extend our efforts to introducing Korean food to the world and eliminating inferior food.”
by Yoo Jee-sang
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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