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Young Chefs Association Wins China International Culinary Competition with Korean DishesInterest in Dishes Using Korean Ingredients

Shanghai International Culinary Competition is a major culinary contest recognized by the World Association of Chefs’ Societies (WACS), a global network of chefs associations, first founded in 1928 in Paris. The competition is held alongside FHC CHINA, the country’s largest food fair attracting chefs from around the world. Korea Agrafood interviewed members of Korea-based group, Young Chefs Association, who recently won gold in the team category of the competition by captivating judges with Korean dishes.

Korea Agrafood: Tell us about the Young Chefs Association.

Kim Dong-seok (mentor and CEO of Korean Chefs Association): The Young Chefs Association is a non-profit skill-sharing organization composed of mentors (professional chefs) and mentees (aspiring chefs 19 to 27 years old). Ten of the mentors select several mentees and help them to operate pop-up restaurants and take part in cooking contests. The current class of Young Chefs consists of Shin Ji-woong who is a hotel cooking major, Kim Soh-hee, a restaurant cooking major, Ha Myeong-hyun, a baking graduate, and another young talent, Moon Jun-seo.

Korea Agrafood: Why do you think you were able to win the gold medal? What is your secret in making delicious dishes?

Ha Myeong-hyun: I work at a fusion restaurant which makes dishes inspired by Korean, Japanese, and American food. Most of our customers are foreigners who like Korean food. Perhaps, the key to our success in the contest was the fact that we can make Korean dishes in a way that foreigners enjoy.

Shin Ji-woong: I agree. I often surf the internet to study cooking trends, and I see many contents related to Korean dishes and agricultural products on social media. That is why we decided to cook Korean food using Korean agricultural products.

Mun Jun-seo: The contest rules require us to demonstrated 16 dishes, including two types of bread, two types of finger food, two cold appetizers, four buffet-style dishes, two types of salad, a soup, a cake, and two desserts. We tried to make the best use of Korean ingredients because we were aware of good reviews of Korean agricultural products abroad. We made bread with chamnamul (a Korean herb) and Korean potato and desserts with Nonsan strawberry and Jeju hallabong (a type of citrus fruit). Many judges asked us about the ingredients we used.

Traditional Korean dishes received much praise. We know that samgyetang (chicken soup with ginseng), bulgogi, and kimchi are very popular abroad for their taste and healthiness, so we cooked abalone samgyetang, bulgogi, kimchi fries, and sliced pig head meat, and the judges were delighted.

Kim So-hee: I think it was also important that Korean dishes look beautiful. Many visitors took pictures of our dishes because they looked sophisticated and harmonious.

Korea Agrafood: As a future chef, what Korean food would you recommend to foreigners?

Shin Ji-Woong: Jangajji, which is a type of pickled vegetables. It can be used in all kinds of dishes, not only Korean but also Western and Japanese. You can use jangajji instead of olives or pickles or serve it as a side dish.

Kim So-hee: I would recommend tteok (rice cake) or hangwa (Korean traditional sweets) as a dessert. At first, the texture may look strange, but one you try them, you will definitely enjoy them. I have surprised my foreign friends and professors by giving them jeolpyeon (pounded rice cake) and hangwa as gifts, and they all said they tasted great.

Mun Jun-Seo: As the popularity of Korean food overseas rises, I think traditional drinks will gain more attention. Korean traditional alcoholic drinks can make a good aperitif or dessert wine; they are both healthy and flavorful.

Ha Myeong-Hyun: I hope Korean rice can be exported more. India, Thailand, and Vietnam are the top three exporters of rice in the world, and their rice is recognized for quality and widely used. I think Korean rice can compete with them in taste and quality, and can be used to cook many delicious dishes.

I would also recommend dried persimmon. I have made various desserts such as scones using dried persimmons, and foreigners loved them. Korean dried persimmons are soft and chewy at the same time.

Kim Hyo Jin  hjkim@agrinet.co.kr

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