On March 14th, a group of foreigners arrived at the Korea Food and Culture Research Center in Seoul for a special purpose.
[Interview : Andrew Howard Haught, Student United States] "I came to study the cuisine, the culture. There aren't very many Korean restaurants in Philadelphia. It's a big city, but they just don't have a lot. Learning about it, cooking it, eating it all at the same time is a lot better than just eating it".
[Interview : Cristina Mackain, Student United States] I'm excited to see how Koreans have night life, instead of my American student night life, to see how similar and different they are. Maybe I can take some stuff back to America".
The group, composed of students and professors from the culinary arts program at Drexel University in the United States, will be attending a two-week course about the theory and practice in Korean cuisine.
[Interview : Jeon Myeong-hee, Employee Korean Agro-Fisheries Trade Corp.] "There are many students all over the world who want to learn about Korean cuisine. The government contacted various schools, and found that Drexel University in the United States had demand for a class like this. That was how this program got started. We hope that after two weeks, these students will be inspired to promote Korean cuisine all over the United States and the world".
Korean food is becoming the number-one symbol of Korean culture that resonates with foreigners.
[Interview : Steven Richard Sztenderowicz, Student
United States] "I love it. The technique and the flavors all together. I love the spiciness".
[Interview : James Nasella, Student] "It's a little bit lighter and spicier, which I enjoy. Long-term, I'd like to be a professor. I wrote one paper for trying to market Korean cuisine and celiac disease, which hopefully I can do some research on that. I want to do some research on gluten-free bread".
Since the program is designed to promote the globalization of Korean cuisine, it includes a series of systematic lectures about the unique traits of Korean food.
[Interview : Lee Jong-im, Professor Korea Food & Culture Research Center] "We prepared a curriculum of basic Korean food and court food. These are students who will become chefs in the United States, so although the intensive course covers the basic seasoning, we have prepared a more modern menu that includes fusion dishes".
It's finally time for the first hands-on lesson. The students learn a variety of dishes ranging from entrees to desserts.
They experience yaksik, made by mixing hard-boiled glutinous rice with various ingredients and steaming it; learn about samgyetang, the famous Korean health food; and discover the delicious world of bulgogi.
[Interview : Caitlin Marie Harvey, Student United States] "Definitely the colors. There are so many bright colors. When you go back to the States, you get burgers, and it's just brown. The different cooking techniques is a lot different than what we're used to. The flavors, definitely, the spices. The way it's all fused together is unlike any other".
[Interview : James Nasella, Student United States] "The flavors, the spices, the different proteins. The vegetables, some of them I've never seen. The texture is also different".
After this first lesson, the group heads out to downtown Seoul for some sightseeing.
Their first destination is an outdoor market, filled with things to see and things to eat. It's a natural way to become accustomed to Korean culture, life, and of course, food.
[Interview : Christopher Allen Spurlino, Student United States] "The amount of food that they can stuff into this small market area is just incredible. I want to learn everything available about Korea".
There is something that particularly catches their eye!
As aspiring chefs, the students are particularly enthusiastic about trying out the array of foods available.
[Interview : Rebecca Smith, Student United States] "It's interesting. It's really different, and it combines lots of flavors that most people in America wouldn't even think of eating, but it's good".
For dinner, the students choose to go to a bulgogi restaurant. Bulgogi is well-known as one of the most popular Korean dishes among foreigners.
[Interview : Kryzstof Babik, Student United States] "It's very different. I'm Polish, so it's just meat and potatoes. It's heartwarming and all, but it's not healthy like this. This is much more light dishes. My food, it's a bunch of food on one plate and that's it, you know. Here it's a lot of little bites and stuff. It's very different".
The group's first day in Korea is exhausting but also informative and exciting. Night falls, and the day slowly comes to a close.
Today, the students will try their hand at making kimchi, the most famous but elusive of Korean foods. The air is tense with concentration.
[Interview : Caitlin Narie Harvey, Student United States] "I thought they only had one type of kimchi. I had no idea that there were over 120 types. I liked it. When I tasted it at first, it was different. It's a lot different from anything you would get in the United States in our cuisine".
The world of Korean cuisine becomes more fascinating the more you know! Next up is kimchijjigae. There's nothing better than eating food that you've made yourself.
[Interview : Adrienne Hall, Professor of Korean Cuisine Drexel University] "I hope that Hansik is globalized in the traditional sense. It's healthy and I think people will like it and they should embrace it because of its health aspects and benefits. But I have the feeling that it's going to enter the American market as fusion".
[Interview : Kevin Robert Ernhoffer, Student United States] "When we go into product development, I think I could bring some Korean food culture to America. They don't know a lot about Korean food yet".
Korea has welcomed in aspiring chefs from across the world to teach them about its unique cuisine! We hope that the two-week program will increase their interest and understanding of Korea's food and culture.