Back in April I had the pleasure of being selected to be on an episode of MasterChef Korea 2. For those of you who are unfamiliar, MasterChef is a television reality cooking show. It originated in the UK and is now being produced in over 35 different counties around the world, including Korea! How amazing is that?!?
For this particular episode (Season 2, episode 7), they needed a “small” group of foreigners to judge the dishes of the remaining contestants. So, one afternoon a group of 33 foreigners gathered together at Korea House over by 충무로역 (Chungmuro Station). It had been quite some time since I had been around so many foreigners. I was a bit shy at first, but I actually ended up meeting a lot of really interesting people.
Usually shoots for TV shows can take all day,even if you’re only on screen for a few seconds, but actually the crew was quite efficient… after the four or five takes of just walking into the building (lol). Once we got seated everything ran really smoothly. The contestants had been split into two teams; the red team and the blue team. Before they presented us with their dishes, they were asked to have one representative from each team introduce themselves and their dish… in English! For the blue team it was their team captain 이예진. She had spent some time in Australia so she was really confident, enthusiastic and didn’t seem to mind speaking in English. Unfortunately the red team’s captain couldn’t speak English so to my surprise and older woman named 정영옥 stepped up with her impressive English skills.
After two shots of the intros we all finally got to try their amazing dishes. Both teams were focused on creating unique Korean dishes that would also appeal to the tastes of foreigners. The blue team prepared 삼겹살 (Samgyupsal) made from Jeju-Do black pork, which was complimented with a disassembled version of 파전 (Korean Pancake). My first thought was that you can’t go wrong with black pork, it’s always delicious and highly preferred especially among foreigners. I thought that alone already gave them a huge advantage. What really caught my attention, however, was the sauce they drizzled on it. The light and slightly transparent red sauce was the perfect balance of sweet and spicy. They really took into consideration that many foreigners can’t handle spicy food and brought it to a level that enhanced the flavor of the meat without overpowering it. In addition to that, the 파전 really brought a lot of color to the dish, which gave it a lovely visual presentation. The team members even went around the tables explaining how to eat it in order to experience the food to its highest potential and it was absolutely savory!
The red team was not only focused on making a dish that was not too spicy, but also one that would be clean and easy to eat. Now imagine if 삼계탕 (samgyetang) and 김밥 (kimbab) got together and had a baby… that is the dish that they created. Somehow they managed to take a soup based dish and construct it into a finger food. I was really impressed by their creativity. Of course looks and idea alone aren’t enough to win without taste. It was unimaginable! The strangely colored kimbab tasted exactly like 삼계탕!!! How was that possible?!? Well, according to the very talkative 정영옥, the secret was that they took the soup and turned it into the thick sauce that was drizzled on top. She also told us not to eat the other dish because it was “trash,” and scolded a teammate for trying to clear my plate. She insisted that I finish it all, which was not a problem because it was orgasmic. It was served with a side of bean paste, some greens and lovely cinnamon anagram sprinkled on the plate to bring it all together.
It took time for everyone to eat and as we did, cameras rolled around watching our every move. It was really awkward and as much as I just wanted to go to town on these amazing dishes, I restrained myself and cut off small pieces and chewed very thoroughly (which actually isn’t so different from how I normally eat). It was only a matter of time before the chefs go anxious and started to put on a bit of a show to gain votes. There was singing, dancing and jokes. Contestant walked around showing off as much of their English skills as possible. I got a little crazy, but it was a lot of fun.
Finally it was time to put in our votes. It was a really tough decision because not only were both dishes fantastic, but the chefs were also so incredibly nice and they all worked so hard. We had to pick a blue or red arrow and place it in a jar. So, in the end I voted for… the red team! Their dish was just so creative and outside the box. I really loved how they took that kind of risk. In addition, the flavor was right on par and the presentation was lovely.
After that we were done. Some of us stuck around to chat for a bit and see if we could get some pictures with the cast. Like I said before, everything ran pretty smoothly and we were almost always filming, so there wasn’t really any time to sneak in pictures (other than the few I got). The crew was telling us that it would be in possible, but the crew member who had been taking care of us went to talk to the judges directly and chef 김소희 agreed to take some quick pictures with us. Despite her intimidating exterior, she was actually incredibly sweet and kind. It was such a delight to meet her in person.
I couldn’t post this until after the show had aired, so as not to ruin it for other viewers. It was a lot of fun and I feel so lucky to have had this random opportunity. Perhaps someday we will cross paths again. Until then, I wish all the contestants the best of luck and may the most masterful of chefs win! ^^