Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Korean Food in 2010: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Me and Marja Vongerichten
It's been a great year for Korean food and next year looks to be even bigger.
Let's first talk about the good.
1.      Korean Tacos. This was the year of Korean tacos when bulgogi tacos and dakgalbi burritos became king. Roy Choi and his crew at Kogi turned kimchi into a gourmet topping. There were also copycats all over the place and I think the trend will continue.
2.      Korean-Gyopo Chefs gain respect: Roy Choi, Sang-hoon Degiembre, Corey Lee, and Rachel Yang, and Akira Back were featured in many news stories. And we can't forget David Chang who was nominated as one of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people list. Corey Lee's new restaurant in San Francisco, Benu, has a 2-month wait.
3.      The Korean Bibimbap Commercial. I love the dancing, the colors, the juxtaposition of dancers to Bibibimbap. It totally works.
4.      The Jean-George and Marja Vongerichten's upcoming show on Korean food: The Kimchi Chronicles. I had a chance to meet Marja and the director, Charlie. The show's promotional clips look very professional and the food looks delicious. I was against the show initially, but after meeting the team, I am sure that the show will be a hit.
5.      The Press. Korean food has gotten a lot of press this year. They have been in the New York Times, to Wall Street Journal, Monocle Magazine, Delta Air, Rudy Maxa's Travel Show, the Financial Times, Fin Air and many more.

The Bad
6.      Controversy about the direction of Korean food globalization. The many different government agencies keep on fighting each other instead of just working together. We don't need 10 different definitions of bibimbap and different spellings. We don't need to fight over if we should promote tteokbokki or Tobokki or if we should promote Samgyetang or Bibimbap.
7.      There were a few controversies such as the 4.4 million dollar project to open up a Korean restaurant in NYC. I don't think it's a great idea. They should use that money to help the existing restaurants that are there.
8.      Makgeolli. It seems that the trend has sorta died.

The Ugly
8. North Korea. North Korea, you are killing me with your constant demands and antagonizations. I have a cooking school and run tours in Korea and our bookings have gone down so much. North Korea is killing the image of Korean food as well. Who wants to eat Korean barbecue when you are thinking there might be a war. Not good.