Published at 15th of November 2020 02:25:17 PM
Someone said one might change his or her mind from time to time, but it would not make much difference at the end of the day . Many of those who tried Min-joon’s recipe could feel the same as he felt at the kitchen table . It was like one that a grandmother with good cooking skills made during the Korean Thanksgiving Day or Lunar New Year Day .
Aside from the glitz and artistic appreciation of the dish, he focused on bringing out the most Korean taste . Besides, he gave a very detailed explanation of the recipe . Since he was the type who was always obsessed with the details, he even explained about the variants in cooking methods, depending on the intensity of the heat . He even measured onions in millimeter, so those who didn’t know him were dumbfounded at his obsessive attention to details .
But the results of the finished dish were clear . At least those who loved Korean dishes perfectly agreed Min-joon’s dishes were just great . And even those who directly tried his recipe said they were great unless he made a mistake .
Strangely enough, there were a lot more people than expected to experiment with his recipe .
Those in Korea tried his recipe just because the dishes he made were familiar to them while those in foreign countries tried it because his dishes were exotic . His recipe didn’t cause any pros and cons among those who tried and tasted his dishes .
That was the same with even mackerel . To put it more accurately, it was this steamed mackerel that drew their most enthusiastic response . Even those who didn’t like the mackerel because of its fishy smell liked Min-joon’s steamed mackerel which was seasoned with the peculiar flavor of that fish .
And those who were aware of the acrimony between Nam-hoon Lee and Min-joon knew that his recipe was his reply to Nam-hoon’s baseless criticism . Quite a few people were impressed by his sincere efforts to show his own recipes to overcome Nam-hoon’s reckless criticism that he didn’t know anything about Korean food .
While reading Min-joon’s recipes, an old man with short white hair touched his chin that had only beard marks . Watching the old man quietly, the man in a black suit carefully opened his mouth .
“What do you think, sir?”‘
“He is doing great . Now that he knows how to make a recipe like this, he has a pretty good sense of Korean food, too . He has put his heart and soul into it, or he is really talented . He is a guy I would like to have around me…”
“I’ve never seen you praising chefs as much as this guy,” the man said, quite surprised .
The fact that Min-joon was a great chef was recognized not only in Korea but in other parts around the world, but the man didn’t expect that a stubborn chef like Man-gil Hong had a favorable view of Min-joon . Man-gil was notorious for not hesitating to criticize even big shots in the Korean cuisine circles .
“I can feel it even without trying the recipe by myself . Min-joon has carefully checked all the shortcomings of this recipe without touching the fundamental aspects of Korean food . I would say he is timid rather than attentive to details . But you can’t say a chef’s timidity is always bad because it means the chef should be more careful . I wish a young person like Min-joon could join the Korean cuisine world . These days, all the young guys want to make Western food or Japanese food…”
“In fact, we, who are working at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, pay a lot of attention to the globalization of Korean food . Kimchi failed to bring out a good response . Of course, I have to admit that it made a strong impression on many people around the world,” said Nbum Yu, an official with the ministry .
“Like it or not, if you come to make them know about our Korean food, they might try it in one way or another . Even if they don’t like Korean food and order a different one, they might still remember its taste . And they will get accustomed to it over time…”
“So, I was very surprised to watch this heated controversy unfolding this time . Even bulgogi and japchae that most Koreans like have failed to draw the attention of the people around the world . I was surprised that Min-joon’s mackerel recipe could draw such wide attention not only here in Korea but abroad,” said Nbum, shaking his head .
Man-gil quietly read Min-joon’s recipe again then muttered in a low voice, “This guy has something I don’t have . ”
“What is it?”
“He knows what’s going on in the foreign cuisine world, right?” said Man-gil in an annoying tone .
Nbum nodded as if he seemed to understand what he was talking about .
“You’re saying that he is familiar with the tastes of people around the world . Yes, I agree . America is a country of immigrants, and Los Angeles, in particular, is a place where people with lots of different cultural backgrounds live . ”
“If you want to globalize Korean food, you should have chefs who know foreign food as well as Korean food . However, chefs who make Korean food tend to try to stay only in Korea . Of course, I can understand those chefs who don’t want to go to the trouble of leaving their fatherland to immigrate to foreign countries…”
“I hope he can grow more . ”
Man-gil looked at him with a puzzled expression as if he could not understand . But Nbum also looked at him with the same expression .
Man-gil smiled bitterly, shaking his head, and said, “I guess you have a bias against him . Do you think this guy’s recipe is shallow? Do you think it’s because he is lucky that people are crazy about his recipe?”
“I don’t think it’s shallow, but is it because of his fame that they are so fascinated about his recipe? I just thought that it’s hard for him to gain such a favorable reaction just because he’s such a talented chef . ”
“One’s tongue doesn’t tell a lie . It’s the most honest part of one’s body . This guy is better than those chefs with decades of experience . ”
“Oh my God… He can’t have decades of experience at that age . Do you mean he is such a talented chef? I thought good chefs are determined by their experiences . ”
“I didn’t expect you would have such an opinion . ”
Man-gil cast a glance at him as if he was disappointed . But Nbum could not understand his unpleasant glance . What made Man-gil think he made a slip of the tongue? While he was trying to ponder over it, Man-gil asked suddenly, “Why are you not trying to think about how much effort he must have made to be a world-famous chef when you are so easily impressed by his cooking talent at that age?”
“Oh, his effort…”
“You bet . When it comes to cooking, your efforts are supposed to pay off at the end of the day .
Of course, depending on each individual, the good results may come sooner than later, but if somebody is highly competent, it means he or she has put a lot of effort into it . Do you think I like that guy because of his competence? No . I liked the time and passion with which he built up such a successful career at that age . ”
Deeply impressed by Man-gil’s remarks, he just remained silent, lost in thought for a moment .
He just thought that Min-joon was only a promising Korean chef who could become a symbol or role model of Korean cuisine here and abroad .
‘Is he more complete as a chef than I think?’
Man-gil calmly opened his mouth, “Have you met him”
“No . I contacted him, but he said since he was on vacation, he would stay away from anything related to work . ”
“Then, go and see him . Don’t bother him . Just say hello and introduce yourself . ”
“Do I really need to see him?”
“Yes, absolutely . ”
Nbum made a curious expression as if he could not understand .
Looking at him, Man-gil said quietly, “You might not be able to see him anymore even if you want to if you don’t meet him this time . ”
A certain pain wouldn’t go away over time . Sometimes, it becomes cloudy like a fog . It would then get moderately beautified in the name of memories, but as time passed, such pain would come to one’s mind more vividly just like a trauma .
Right now, Min-joon was facing that old scar . He was standing before the restaurant where he worked in the past .
“Why are you standing like this instead of going in?”
Kaya looked at him with a puzzled expression . He hesitated for a moment then looked at her with a faint smile instead of answering .
He slowly opened his mouth . “Fine, let’s go in . ”
There were a lot of customers, as always . He painfully recollected what head chef Dong-hyok Bae here used to whisper into his ears . Dong-hyok had been riding roughshod over him for more than a year when he was a junior chef here, but Min-joon tried to comfort himself, thinking he was not a bad guy when he gave some tips on cooking .
Min-joon and Kaya just entered the restaurant when she, who was tense as a foreigner, opened her eyes wide after seeing him . Min-joon noticed someone he knew . That man used to comfort and give him candies when Min-joon was struggling . Min-joon was also familiar with some of the chefs standing in the open kitchen .
Min-joon and Kaya sat at a bar-shaped table right in front of the open kitchen . He saw some of the chefs glancing at him . Among them was Sous chef Yu-sok Park . Was he a demi-chef or a cook by now? Kaya looked into the kitchen quickly and said, “It looks like the western restaurants here in Korea have a much better atmosphere than other countries . ”
“Well, lots of people in Korea believe restaurants are very expensive . In fact, most of the customers have their purses plentiful, so the dishes are expensive and their customer service and the interior are good . ”
“What really matters is the taste of the food . How about it?”
“Well, you will find it out by yourself . ”
When he thought about the dishes he tried while working as a junior chef, they were good . They didn’t use any cheap ingredients . Since he knew that, he came here with Kaya .
At that moment, Head chef Dong-hyok came to Min-joon and spoke to him, “You must be Chef Min-joon Cho, right?”
“Yes, I am . Hi!”
“It’s nice to see you . I was really curious about you because my junior chef was making a great success in America . I didn’t expect I would see you here . How did you come to my restaurant?”
“I came across it on the internet . ”
“Haha . Wow, I’ve never known before that the information age is so good as to make Chef Min-joon come to my restaurant like this . ”
Dong-hyok laughed nicely . Min-joon slightly smiled at him . He didn’t mean to be cold, but he felt strange about Dong-hyok’s laughter because the head chef used to get rough with him as a junior chef .
‘What a difference! He’s changed a lot…’