Why kimchi isn’t the best face of Korean cuisine

This is from the Joongahn Daily

Kimchi is a condiment and it shouldn’t be the main dish to promote Korea. In order to popularize a country’s cuisine, you need to have a dish that appeals to the masses. Kimchi isn’t very universal. It alienates a great deal of people with its smell, its look, and the process in which it is made. Chef Shenks isn’t trying to be arrogant, he tries very hard to promote Korean food (I know, I’ve met him and he is very passionate about the topic.)

Here is the article below.

February 11, 2009
Paul Schenk, executive chef at the InterContinental Hotels in Seoul. [JoongAng Ilbo]

Paul Schenk, executive chef at the InterContinental Hotels in Seoul, is an expert on Korean food who knows that few non-Koreans understand the local cuisine better than him.

The 37-year-old Australian showcased a five-course modern Korean menu on Jan. 21 at CICI Korea 2009, an event promoting Korea hosted by the Corea Image Communication Institute.

Renowned conductor Chung Myung-hoon, who is also known for his professional cooking skills, joined him in creating the dishes.

“It was a superb reinterpretation of Korean food,” said Choi Jung-wha, president of the institute.

“Foreigners attending the event showed an enthusiastic response [to the food].”

In a recent interview with the JoongAng Ilbo, Schenk revealed his affection for Korean food and offered ideas on how to globalize it.

The interview was conducted in English but written in Korean.

For JoongAng Daily readers, it was translated again from the Korean article.

Q. How much do you know Korean food?

A. I have tasted hongeo hoe (raw fermented skate), bosintang (dog meat soup) whale meat, etc. I am really adventurous.

When I was 21 years old, back in Australia, I even tried making kimchi using a recipe that I worked really hard to get. It was, of course, not very well made kimchi.

A cook is always living under pressure to create new cuisine and is very thirsty for something new.

Unlike Japanese food and Chinese food, which have already been globalized to a large extent, Korean food is still uncharted territory, and holds many opportunities.

Galbijjim (steamed short ribs) has such a good ensemble of beef and seasonings that it could enchant people all around the world.

Gungjung tteokbbokgi (fried rice cakes), seasoned with soy sauce, also has an edge.

Suppose you assume a mission of globalizing Korean food. What would you do first?

I would stop promoting Korean food focused on kimchi. If kimchi, which is very distinct, is put out front, some foreigners could think that all Korean food is salty and spicy.

That misconception could hold foreigners back from getting to know Korean food.

If I wanted to introduce Australian food and then served kangaroo, what would people think?

When foreigners try kimchi, I always warn them that they need to be careful. I tell them that they could find it really spicy and salty.

I also serve a small quantity to them, to avoid their first encounter with Korean food being nightmarish.

What else would you do?

I would send Korean ingredients to renowned food critics and cooks across the world, teach them a recipe and let them create something new out of the ingredients.

If a famous cook says in an interview, “I love this Korean dish called galbijjim,” this would help a lot in globalizing Korean food.

It would have the same effect as having many people taste Korean food.

It is also important to encourage foreign chefs to use their creativity in dealing with Korean food.

Honestly, I think the current campaign to globalize Korean food only has resonance in Korea.

Can you give an example to back up your claim?

Recently there was an event to promote Korean hot pepper paste throughout the world in Sunchang (a South Jeolla county that is famous for hot pepper paste).

Shouldn’t that kind of event be held in New York or London?

Let’s stop shouting that Korean food is great in Korea, and go overseas to promote it.

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