Drama Recaps
Gourmet: Episodes 11 & 12
by | July 27, 2008 | 10 Comments

On paper, some of the Gourmet storylines seem rather trifling. Cow hunts, beef taste tests, chef competitions, butchery challenges… But for some reason, even though some of the plots sound not-quite dramatically interesting, the episodes still manage to be really watchable. For this reason, I wouldn’t say Gourmet is an excellent drama, but it’s still accomplished a worthy feat in appealing to a populist sensibility while maintaining high production value. (What could be more appealing and populist than rooting for the underdog?) For me, its strengths (the acting, the pacing) outweigh its weaknesses (story and plot). Gourmet‘s charm isn’t so much in WHAT it does as it is HOW it does it.


Han Hee-jung – “산책” (A walk). This is from the new release and first solo album of Han Hee-jung, aka Dawny of disbanded indie duo Bluedawn and also one of the earlier vocalists for rock band The The (albums 3 and 4). The album is pretty fantastic; it showcases her trademark low-key — but also unexpectedly complex — melodicism. [ Download ]

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The rules of the Beef Battle: Round 1 eliminates 8 of 16 teams based on the quality of the cow itself. The top 8 teams go on to Round 2, where a butcher from each team must break down the entire cow in a challenge that tests speed and accuracy. And finally, the top 4 of those teams advance to Round 3, where chefs are tested on their ability to create char-grilled dishes.

Jin-soo is unexpectedly tapped to fill in as TV host when the scheduled MC gets into an accident; she and her boss stumble their way through the broadcast, but in an appealing enough way that wins viewer affection.

Round 1 fulfills what was foreshadowed at the end of the last episode, because Oonamjeong’s cow is graded the top quality specimen, but ultimately fails because some bruising/hemorrhaging is found in the muscle. The rough handling of their cow has caused excessive stress, which manifests in the beef itself. Team Daejin (Sung-chan’s team) had been in second place with its Grade A+ beef, and Oonamjeong’s had just barely topped it with Grade A++. However, this discovery means Oonamjeong is given penalty points, dropping them all the way down to 8th place — the very last place of teams that qualify to advance to the next round.

Bong-joo’s overconfidence takes a hit, and his anger over his team’s mistake is only exacerbated by seeing Sung-chan’s team in first place. He does congratulate Sung-chan for the win, but cynically scoffs at Sung-chan’s response, telling him that he no longer considers them brothers. He again promises to beat him, warning him that the battle is bound to grow ugly.

What’s cute about Jin-soo’s reporting is that she’s so obviously on Daejin’s side, trying to be objective but getting particularly excited whenever Daejin receives a good mark. In her excitement over the win, some of her growing affection for Sung-chan starts to show as well, and since she’s an open, straightforward type of character, she doesn’t bother trying to hide it. Unlike, for instance, Joo-hee, who’s all about veiled comments and hidden thoughts.

For instance, that night Joo-hee waits for Sung-chan outside his place, again disappointed to see Jin-soo arriving with him (they bicker over Jin-soo’s driving, as she’s knocked his sideview mirror askew by accident). After Jin-soo leaves, Joo-hee approaches and they talk in his apartment, which is mostly her trying to persuade him to return to Oonamjeong. Thinking she understands the whole picture, Joo-hee’s efforts aim to bring peace to the family. But Sung-chan tells her that Bong-joo doesn’t consider them brothers anymore, and adds, “Don’t think of me as family anymore either. It’ll be more comfortable for you.”

Jin-soo returns to Sung-chan’s truck to duct-tape the fallen mirror back into place, and also tapes a single red rose to the car, somewhat bashful at the gesture but giddy in anticipation. However, seeing Joo-hee leave the apartment, she wonders, “Was that what their relationship was like? Then what am I doing?” She snatches the rose and leaves, and treats Sung-chan with jealous irritation the next day.

Last of all, the butchers prepare for their competition. Oonamjeong’s Choi Jong-gu pays a visit to Mr. Kang’s restaurant that night, and the reason for their enmity becomes clear. Choi thinks Mr. Kang stole a job from him in the past, while Kang contends that he earned the job fair and square. Choi blames Kang for his daughter’s misfortune, as the engagement was called off because of his job. The air is rife with tension, erupting when Choi suddenly overturns the table, knocking Mr. Kang to the ground — where he slices his hand on broken glass, as the teams ready to commence Round 2.


Round 2 begins. Mr. Kang starts off strong in the butchery battle, showing both speed and skill. However, his hand begins to pain him and he flinches — leading him to accidentally stab his own leg. He continues on resolutely but loses steam, causing everyone to wonder why the frontrunner has suddenly slowed. Sung-chan looks over in concern and sees blood dripping all over the floor, and attempts to call a stop to the proceedings.

But Kang grimly keeps going, and despite finishing in last place, he earns everyone’s respect for continuing in the face of severe injury (he collapses after finishing, and is rushed to the hospital to get surgery). He may have lost in the speed battle, but the test of accuracy confirms his skill — all the other teams have points deducted for errors in their butchery, except for Team Daejin, who earns the only perfect score. It’s enough to put them in 4th place overall, earning them a berth into Round 3 (Oonamjeong goes into the last round in first place).

Chef Choi has the humanity to look at least a LITTLE guilty, since he was responsible for the injury, and Mr. Kang is too gracious to reveal why he slipped up and cut himself in the first place. Jin-soo discovers the truth when she grabs his hand and sees his wound, but again, he declines to explain why it happened.

Seok-dong takes more abuse from Min-woo and finally has had enough; he quits Oonamjeong and goes to Sung-chan. Jin-soo is excited to see him again, but Sung-chan scolds his former sous chef for being foolish enough to quit such a good job. He tells Seok-dong to get his job back, not wanting him to follow in his own footsteps and suffer for it.

Seok-dong protests, wanting to stay with Sung-chan, and he can’t understand how Sung-chan is so calm after after what happened in the successorship contest. He’s about to mention the cheating attempt when Sung-chan shushes him, but Jin-soo is quick enough to catch on, and wonders what he’s referring to. Seok-dong’s slip continues to bother her, and it’ll probably only be a matter of time before she unravels the truth.

The teams now have a little time to prepare for the last round. Oonamjeong orders charcoal from all around the country, while Bong-joo attempts to set himself apart from the rest of the pack by procuring a particular top-grade charcoal, called hyang-tan, which was so special it was reserved for the king. However, only the head chef of Oonamjeong knows the recipe, and Chef Oh had only intended to pass it along to his successor. Bong-joo pleads for his father to recognize him as the true successor, and even fortune-teller Ja-woon agrees. As a father, however, Chef Oh feels that if he were to give one son an advantage, the other deserves equal opportunity, and feels guilty for not being able to help Sung-chan.

Meanwhile, Sung-chan has taken Mr. Kang’s advice in seeking out a purveyor of charcoal, who turns out to be a drunken mess. The charcoal man tells him of a high-quality charcoal made of a particular type of wood found deep in the mountainside. So Sung-chan hikes his way into the woods to find it, forced to go alone because the alcoholic charcoal man is in no condition to help him.

Jin-soo appoints herself Sung-chan’s helper and goes to meet him, but a fall injures her ankle and gets her lost. Alone and scared, she calls Sung-chan for help. Unfortunately, it takes him hours to find her, by which time she’s near-hysterical with fear. When he finally finds her, she bursts into tears and clings to him (and his reaction to her hug hints at more than mere relief).


I have to be honest and admit that I can understand why some people may not respond well to Nam Sang-mi in this drama. Personally, I like her but that’s also because I first saw her in Bad Family, which was a wonderful drama and in which her character was boyish, no-nonsense, and adorable. She’s not as natural in Gourmet as she was there (anyone who loves quirky family comedies has to see Bad Family — although I’d suggest skimming past Episode 1), and from what I hear she wasn’t that natural in Time of Dog and Wolf, either. So this is probably one of those personal preference issues. If you like her, you’re probably okay with her character. If you don’t, you’ll probably find Jin-soo on the annoying side.

Even if I hadn’t been predisposed to like her, though, I would be willing to go with her because she’s Sung-chan’s love interest, and Sung-chan deserves some love. Their romance is starting to take some shape, and Kim Rae-won is natural where she is not, so at least his half of their interactions feels honest and endearing.

Still, she does have some nice moments, such as when she’s hosting the TV show and announces the butchery round scores. She announces each team’s penalty points, then has a moment when she realizes that Mr. Kang — who’s been rushed to the hospital — has earned none. Her voice quavers and she tries to fight for composure and as a result, you end up caring an awful lot about butchery. That’s an accomplishment, no?

It’s also about damn time that Chef Oh turned his attention toward his dutiful son. Perhaps if he’d done so earlier, the situation between the brothers would not have deteriorated to this level. But it’s better late than never, I suppose, and even if he doesn’t see eye to eye with Bong-joo on how to run Oonamjeong, he must admit that Bong-joo has given a lot of himself to the restaurant and to fulfilling his father’s vision (even if he gets it wrong sometimes).


Although it’s inevitable that both Oonamjeong and Daejin must make it to the final round, I appreciated how the series built the drama in getting both teams there. Oonamjeong — who won the cow unfairly to begin with — must be punished for their underhandedness, so it’s fitting that they’re penalized for their treatment of it. The difficulty in the first challenge lies in the fact that the teams had to choose premium grade beef before the cow was butchered, which tests their understanding of the animal on a fundamental level — so while they lucked out with a great cow, they missed in the “fundamental understanding” category by their manhandling of the animal once they had it. They’d been so overconfident that they missed a key element; pride cometh before a fall, and such as.

Daejin, on the other hand, must be the underdog, so they’re running an uphill race here. Sure they were beaten in the cow selection, but they made up for it in their handling of the animal and wound up the decisive winner in Round 1.

In Round 2, Mr. Kang was shown to be clearly superior to his rivals, but again we needed to make Daejin the underdog, and what better way to do that than handicap him? Again, Oonamjeong stoops to sneaky tactics (yes, the injury was partially accidental but I’m pretty sure Jong-gu wanted Mr. Kang to be injured when he threw the table over). Their sly behavior earns them the win, but again they’re penalized. Not severely, but enough that their win is polluted.

The search for the perfect charcoal again shows philosophical differences between teams. Like with the first round, Oonamjeong spares no expense ordering expensive charcoal from multiple locations, stockpiling their resources so that they have the best from which to choose. The stage is being set, I believe, to demonstrate that that the quality of a product is only as good as the one in charge of its handling. Or a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so to speak. Oonamjeong’s weak link has been their character, not their materials. Their character flaws lead them to do unworthy things, and thus their weak character will probably be their undoing.

Naturally, the opposite is true for Team Sung-chan. He’s our noble hero, so his character is top-notch stuff; in contrast, it’s his circumstances that prove to be his greatest obstacles. In light of these hindrances, it takes creativity mixed with some good fortune to win the day. However, they make sure to show that even when Sung-chan is blessed with good fortune, it’s not merely happenstance. Rather, it’s as if to say that Sung-chan is blessed with good fortune because of the strength of his character. I.e., he may have come across a good cow by chance, but it was the way he comported himself that enabled him to secure its use.

Hubris is a killer, and Oonamjeong smacks of it. They’ve earned the right to have pride in their quality, but under Min-woo and Choi Jong-gu’s guidance, Oonamjeong is veering into snobbish, overconfident territory. It’s this kind of attitude that caused them to renege on letting Seok-dong compete in the beef battle, even though he won the right to compete. When push comes to shove, Oonamjeong is too cautious to let Seok-dong represent them, and would rather lose him.

When Choi Jong-gu is rehired and promoted after the butchery win, he fires the new chef (the oddly effeminate Dal-pyung), who accepts the decision gracefully. Dal-pyung gives Jong-gu some well-meaning goodbye advice: “Don’t work too hard trying to become the best. Rather than working to become the best, it’s better to do your best trying to become the best.” Jong-gu doesn’t take the advice to heart, but this is the kind of statement — however cheesy it may sound — that epitomizes the difference between the Bong-joo and Sung-chan Philosophies of Life and Chefdom.


10 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. teokong

    Thank you very much for the summary of episodes 11 and 12. Though I’m unable to watch the drama online, your summary is good enough. Cheers! 🙂

  2. Philippa

    Thanks! This drama is amazing!

  3. eevee

    bad family was soooooooooooooooo great! and i love nam sang mi too. but ur right, she’s starting to slip. because i like her, i dont mind, but a lot of other ppl i know complains cuz they didnt start out liking her and her character in TBDAW really just annoyed the hell of them. i hope she gets more tomboyish characters cuz she seems more natural like that. i was just wondering if u have seen lee seung gi’s MV words are hard to say. i first saw her there and loved her acting. she was so pretty too! now in her dramas they make her look too old for her real age with that short hair cut. oh well, lets just hope she gets better roles.

    once again, ppl really need to watch Bad Family. its just such a feel good sweet comedy. i learned a lot from watching this drama and actually cried almost every single episode, not from sappy cancer dying situations but adorable family moments that makes my heart feel all fuzzy

  4. lime9

    it’s ok to have pride in what you do and be overconfident when you are actually good at what you do but Bong-joo , Min-woo and Choi Jong-gu have surpassed that and gone into cocky/superiority territory. when they treat others like crap and are so beneath them i just want to see them fail miserably. Joo-hee’s beginning to annoy me also. Joo-hee and Bong-joo belong together. both think they know everything but are so clueless at the same time.

  5. coollady

    thanks for the summary, dramabeans! even though i kinda get the sense that you’re not really into this drama, i still enjoy reading your recaps. i absolutely love this drama! this is one drama where i don’t really care if the romance is slow (and trust me, i’m a sucker for romance) because i love the food aspect of the show even more. it’s like Top Chef with a script! haha. anyhow, i don’t know about other people, but i love Nam Sang Mi in here. she’s my favorite type of kdrama female lead. she’s feisty, direct, hyper, career-driven, and hilarious! who can ask for more? and her interactions with Sung Chan are cute in the sense that she’s annoying the perfect Sung Chan, but in a way where he might be irritated but he still enjoys (dear i say Love?) her company. she’s convincing enough and that’s all i ask for.
    by the way, what do you mean by she’s not natural? can i get an example of her tendency to be unnatural? i don’t see it.
    anyways, i love the drama because they find numerous ways to make this ordinary cooking competition into an intense, suspect-filled event. this is my main reason for loving this drama. thanks for the summary again.

  6. javabeans

    Oh, if I didn’t like this drama, I wouldn’t be writing about it. Right now, it’s a whole lot more interesting than My Sweet Seoul, for instance. It’s just that I notice its flaws — but that doesn’t mean I’m not entertained.

    What I mean by unnatural is that Nam Sang-mi has a tendency to force Jin-soo’s cuteness, which I think is too bad because she’d be cuter if she just let it flow.

  7. sf

    Hurray, I really like how your caps always reveal something new even though I’ve watched the episodes already 🙂 I have to confess I can’t bring myself to like Jinsoo but she’s at the point that being annoying is just her character :p I confess I think I would’ve liked it better if the Jinsoo from Le Grande Chef was in Gourmet instead. It’s kind of funny but I actually really like Dal-pyung, girliness and all. His dynamic with the Manager lady is amusing and I had a laugh seeing how the actor has easily transitioned into a ‘modern’ drama (I’ve only seen him in saguk dramas). And amidst all the underhandedness at Oonamjeong, it’s nice to see someone who was both unafraid to be quirky and wholeheartedly embraces cooking for what it is..liek Sung-chan I guess. Perhaps it was meant to be that a person like that would not survive long at Oonamjeong 🙁 I hope he’s not not entirely cut out of the drama at this point. God willing, he’ll just crossover to sung-chan’s side and help him along somehow.

  8. Sue

    “Oh yeah, and Choi was the fiancé who’d left Kang’s daughter, having cried off their engagement after losing the job to his rival.”

    hmm typo?

    i’m loving seokdong/dolmengi! he had great comedic moments earlier in the drama.

  9. javabeans

    Sue, you’re right. *oops* No, i misheard. The moment he started talking about feeling sorry for the daughter and how she lucked into finding a new man anyway, my mind jumped to conclusions, and the rest of the conversation followed that assumption. I see now that when he talked about 그 약혼자 하고 인연이 없는거야 he meant the old fiance (not the new one as I’d assumed).

  10. 10 Icarusfalls

    Did anyone else notice that the whole cow part was ripped off from the 2007 movie – le grand chef.. ??? In the movie, the cow of the protagonist was a well loved cow of the protagonist’s or his friend ‘s(don’t remember which) while the antagonist’s cow though A grade was badly treated leading to bruising!! familiar? The other rounds in the competition also dealt with charcoal and butchering.. I was kinda disappointed that it wastaken almost plot for plot from the film .. but regardless I LOVE the show so far.. I’m definitely glad I took up your recommendation and started watching it!!

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