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7 world-renowned chefs demonstrate love for food

Seven internationally renowned star chefs gathered at the JW Marriott Seoul, making for something of a culinary “Avengers” team, to participate in the hotel’s Culinary Art event, a global gourmet project featuring talented chefs from around the world.

Each shared his distinct philosophy behind food, passion for cooking and enthusiasm for the “authentic” Korean food experience at Wednesday’s press conference for the event.

For acclaimed chocolate master Andres Lara, a graduate of Chicago’s famous French Pastry School, eating is something “that brings memories, happiness and comfort.”

Chef Artur Martinez. (JW Marriott Seoul)
Chef Artur Martinez. (JW Marriott Seoul)

“Eating satisfies your heart,” said Lara, who works with Cacao Barry, a prominent 170-year-old chocolate company. “Cooking satisfies your intellect. It’s a day-to-day process of improving, learning, constantly reaching for a level of experience.”

Takagi Kazuo, master chef at the exclusive Kyoryori Takagi restaurant in Osaka, says food is both his profession and his pastime.

“Eating is fun, and cooking is a job, but this job allows me to give the pleasure of eating to others. I’m doing what I love 19 hours a day,” said Kazuo, whose wildly popular renditions of Japanese kaiseki cuisine ― which mirrors the changing seasons of the Kyoto region through food ― are among the first to sell out at every event.

Han Bok-jin, one of Korea’s leading cuisine experts and a professor of Korean cookery at Jeonju University, emphasized the wide spectrum of epicurean delights in Korea today.

“Food can be at once the most basic part of our lives and the highest luxury,” said Han, who is also the daughter of renowned palace cuisine researcher Hwang Hye-seong. “In Korea, gastronomy has now become something everyone can enjoy. It’s become a part of our lifestyle.

“I think real cuisine is made when a cook has a deep sense of consideration for the diner and truly appreciates the ingredients,” added Han.

For chef Ivan Li of Beijing’s renowned Family Li Imperial Cuisine restaurants, cooking provided a turning point in his life.

Li, whose great-grandfather was in charge of the Qing imperial court kitchens, “started in dental science, moved to Australia, studied interior design and chose to become a chef instead,” he said. “I think that explains (my passion).”

Chef Cuong Trinh of JW Marriott Hanoi’s Vietnamese restaurant Hanoi, hopes Korean diners will look forward to discovering his creative contemporary interpretations of traditional dishes. “Cooking is close to my heart, and I’m happy to share it with Korea,” he said.

Spanish chef Artur Martinez is a devotee of the slow food movement, a campaign that promotes the heritage and local culture of food.

“Using fresh local ingredients is very important,” said Martinez, who opened his own restaurant Capritx ― awarded a Michelin star in 2010 ― at the age of 26. “We work with local producers because they give an identity to our kitchen, and we conserve our products and farmers with great pride.”

Shaun Hergatt, an Australian chef who runs the Michelin-star boutique restaurant Juni in Manhattan, is a keen defender of the deep-rooted traditions behind local food. The best kind of food embodies a time-honored accumulation of a region’s history and culture, he said.

“I don’t come to Korea to eat French food ― I’m here to see what its own culture has to offer,” said Hergatt, who is trained in classic French cuisine and has made numerous media appearances. “Authenticity is the key. Food is very trend-driven and cyclical, like fashion, but I still prefer the authenticity of cuisine with a story,” he said. “Eating becomes the bridge between different types of people, especially when you’re traveling.

“Nothing comes close to the heart and soul, the flavor profile of your grandmother’s cooking, with a recipe that has been handed down for six generations,” Hergatt added.

The Culinary Art event will be offering special promotions at the JW Marriott Seoul until May 30.

A grand gala dinner will be held on Thursday evening, featuring a seven-course meal expertly prepared by the visiting chefs and priced at 320,000 won. Chef Li will be showcasing a Chinese imperial dinner, priced at 230,000 won, on Friday at Man Ho. The hotel’s Lobby Lounge will offer an afternoon tea set, priced at 59,000 won, by chef Laras from Friday to Saturday. A special dinner by chef Martinez will be available at Olivo, the hotel’s trattoria-style eatery, on Saturday. Prices are 220,000 won per person. For inquiries, call (02) 6282-6771~2.

By Rumy Doo (