Drama Recaps
Gourmet (SBS): Episodes 1-4
by | July 6, 2008 | 49 Comments

Gourmet got off to a really good start.

I understand why it’s winning the Monday-Tuesday drama battle (it’s poised to break the 20% mark any day now) because it’s well-made, well-directed, well-acted, and well-paced. (The assured pacing is more readily achieved in SBS’s recent trend of airing dramas that are produced prior to airing, which allows for a more finished and complete feel.) On top of that, the drama is beautifully shot — and there’s plenty of FOOD PORN!

But it’s not just about food. Obviously, the plot IS food-related, but Gourmet doesn’t forget that at the heart of any successful drama is the ability to draw upon its characters and create emotional moments, and it accomplishes that. Kim Rae-won is wonderful in his role, and does a lovely, layered job portraying depth to his good-natured character. While the drama starts with a slow build, I found that I liked it more and more as I kept going.

Rather than do strict episode-by-episode recaps, I’ve kinda thrown everything together into a four-episode analysis, with some summarizing in there as well. It seemed appropriate — because while the initial plot is pretty straightforward for these first four hours, Gourmet‘s strength isn’t in the mere plot points themselves but in the underlying themes that support them.


Gourmet OST – “내 꿈을 향해서” by Lemon Tree (Chasing my dream) [ Download ]

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Gourmet inhabits the world of traditional Korean cuisine. And when I say “traditional,” I don’t mean familiar-home-cooking kind of tradition, I mean distinguished, steeped-in-generations-of-history tradition. Food that sets The Ultimate Standard for Korean fare, merely than everyday reproductions of it. The characters work at Oonamjeong [운암정], a super-classy restaurant that is known for the best Korean food in the nation. It’s not simply a fancy dining experience, but descended from the former imperial chefs who attended the emperor (the last imperial chef was the grandfather of the current executive chef, who is Kim Rae-won’s adoptive father).

I’m hardly a gourmet, but Gourmet‘s appeal goes beyond merely foodies — it’s an appreciation of Korean culture manifested through its cooking. Kind of like Daejanggeum, but in a contemporary context. I think of Korean food as cheap, hearty, and delicious — each home cook has her (or his, but let’s face it, mostly her) secret techniques for getting the perfect kimchi seasoning, or kalbi beef marinade — but by and large it’s accessible and common, and has gone for centuries without a lot of haute cuisine applications. Perhaps that’s just a common misconception, but that’s how I’ve always seen it.

Gourmet, however, goes the other way and sets its characters in the uppermost echelons of haute Korean cuisine. I’m not familiar with the Korean culinary world, so someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe this kind of elevated Korean food is a creation of the manhwa upon which the drama is based. Kind of like how Goong created its modern monarchy and the high society that accompanied it.

By so doing, Gourmet brings technique and elegance back to Korean cooking. However — and this is key! — it doesn’t get mired in it either. Koreans often say, “Cooking is from the heart” (as in, one should cook with sincerity and affection). Despite the haute cuisine world he inhabits, Kim Rae-won’s character is one of the few who seems to remember this. Which is why he’s our hero, natch.


Our hero: LEE SUNG-CHAN (Kim Rae-won), 28-ish years old. He was raised as the son of Oonamjeong’s current executive chef, Chef Oh, alongside adopted big bro BONG-JOO (Kwon Oh-joong). Sung-chan and Bong-joo have a good relationship and act as true brothers even though Bong-joo was already fourteen when his father brought Sung-chan home and announced he was going to be a part of their family.

Sung-chan had something of a misguided youth, causing no end of trouble until he picked up cooking at a relatively late age. Thus he lacks the classical training of his older brother (who studied assiduously to follow in his father’s footsteps since the age of fifteen) but he has a raw talent that his father recognizes. Although he’s still lacking in discipline, he’s creative and passionate about cooking, and jumps into challenges wholeheartedly. In the first episode, he is promoted from sous chef to full chef (albeit a junior one) after he impresses his father with one of his innovations. Sung-chan’s promotion marks a meteoric rise, career-wise, which impresses most of his fellow chefs except for some who are jealous of his success. With his good-natured personality, Sung-chan is well-liked by most.

Chef Oh, the aging executive chef of Oonamjeong, is a descendant of the line of former imperial chefs — he’s the grandson of the man pictured, the last imperial chef. The chef is photographed with the last emperor, upon whom he’d made a strong impression with his devotion and sincerity upon the eve of the empire’s takeover by Japanese rule in 1910.

I’m not sure if the imperial chef was a position that was exclusively hereditary, but it’s clear that it’s at least mostly hereditary, because everyone expects Oonamjeong’s next executive chef to be Bong-joo. He’s currently the well-respected head chef in the kitchen (while Chef Oh is the top guy, he doesn’t do the everyday cooking).

Bong-joo also has a romantic vibe going with JOO-HEE (Kim So-yeon), the kind, poised secretary to his father. She’s de facto manager of Oonamjeong and always comes through in a crisis with nary a hair out of place. She’s like executive assistant, manager, and PR representative all in one. Their romance, however, is more implied than overt; they both know they like each other, but they aren’t dating. And yet both Bong-joo and Joo-hee’s father seem to expect them to end up married.

Perhaps the stalled momentum of their romance can be attributed to the fact that (in addition to Bong-joo not taking the initiative) Joo-hee may have feelings for Sung-chan. It’s unclear in the first four episodes what her feelings are, exactly, because while she does care for Bong-joo, she also cares for Sung-chan. Most of the time it’s like an older sister looking out for her errant younger brother, but sometimes there’s a moment, a little something in the way she looks at him. For his part, Sung-chan likes her back, but I interpret that as a schoolboy crush mixed with genuine respect. Sung-chan’s feelings for Joo-hee aren’t serious (as I see it), but hers for him may become a problem. Not that she’d do anything nefarious — she’s too good-hearted and professional for that — but they may cause issues in her relationship with Bong-joo.

Enter JIN-SOO (Nam Sang-mi, adorable as ever). She’s a foodie with ambitions of being a food critic, and has come to Seoul to take the reporters’ exam at a major newspaper. To do well, she feels she must eat at Oonamjeong first, and through a series of mishaps, both misses her exam and clashes with Sung-chan. She determines to stay in Seoul and take a later exam for another newspaper, and in the interim manages to score a job working as a server (in training) at the restarant.

Rounding out the cast, we also have MIN-WOO (Won Ki-joon), a senior chef ranked just below Bong-joo who looks down on Sung-chan in a mix of jealousy and derision. Min-woo is the guy you really hate to see in power — he’s skilled, but his personal shortcomings make him a nightmare to be around. He’s not a completely one-sided villain (he has genuine respect for Bong-joo), but he feels threatened because although Sung-chan may have skills, he hasn’t earned his dues and worked his way up properly. He feels that Chef Oh’s favoritism of Sung-chan — even over his own son — is unfair.


Sung-chan is promoted to chef and is given a set of knives by his father. Min-woo is overcome with indignity. When Sung-chan’s knives fall in transit while the chefs are setting up for a special event, Min-woo kicks them away. Thus Sung-chan is reduced to a panic, and has to finish his cooking demonstration with his brother’s knife.

When a group of Japanese dignitaries arrive to the event late, unexpectedly, both Bong-joo and Min-woo refuse to go out of their way to accommodate them. (It’s not assiness — it shows how seriously they take Oonamjeong’s reputation that they are unwilling to cook in less-than-ideal circumstances, lest the resource restrictions produce inferior food and therefore tarnish their name.) Sung-chan, however, steps in and says he has extra fish, and agrees to accommodate the guests. They love the cooking. Day is saved.

Chef Oh decides to make the announcement of his successor official, and everyone expects it to be Bong-joo. Thus all are shocked when he announces, instead, a competition to determine his successor.


Bong-joo is hurt by his father’s announcement, which is tantamount to him being shoved aside. But he tells his father he’ll play the game and win. When Chef Oh asks for all interested applicants, two others step up: Min-woo and Sung-chan. They’re sorry about hurting Bong-joo’s feelings, but feel this is a chance of a lifetime.

Thus begins the first challenge: to use a part of a fish that currently has no good cooking application: the bladder. They are given the fish and three days. Min-woo spends the time perfecting his dumpling dish; Sung-chan beats his head trying to come up with a good dish; and Bong-joo stays out of the kitchen.

On the day of the competition, a mishap ruins Sung-chan’s fish bladder, forcing him to improvise his concept, originally a variation on soondae (a type of blood sausage made with intestine). Bong-joo comes in at the last minute and wows with his seafood mixed rice (pictured below, left), having blanched and cooked the bladder to perfect consistency to rid them of their fishy smell. And Min-woo’s dumpling dish (below, middle) is equally well-executed. But Sung-chan wins for his extra creativeness (I’ll discuss later) and for his improvisation.

A last-minute reservation throws the restaurant into a flurry — a very important, very picky North Korean diplomat is coming. Chef Oh is flummoxed when the man orders, to everyone’s surprise, a very basic and simple cheonggukjang, a type of soup made with fermented soybeans. Eager to distinguish themselves, all three competitors offer to make the dish. But Bong-joo and Min-woo falter when Chef Oh adds the condition that if the chef cannot please the diplomat, he will be cut from the competition. Sung-chan steps up… but fails.


Min-woo rejoices that Sung-chan will be cut from competition (Bong-joo’s rejoicing is mostly internal, methinks), but Sung-chan is more concerned about his failed dish than the successorship. (Because he’s humble! And our hero!) He determines to see the challenge through and prove himself, and outdoes himself trying to pin the source of the problem. Is it the ingredients? His cooking technique? Once he thinks he knows the problem, Sung-chan haunts the diplomat’s hotel to plead for a second chance. Using all his newfound knowledge, he makes the cheonggukjang again, this time to wild success. The extremely picky diplomat is not only impressed, he’s touched by Sung-chan’s attentiveness. Sung-chan even lands mention in the newpaper.

The problem turned out to be the soybeans, which have been fermented using an agent to make them smell less, particularly since Oonamjeong has so many Western patrons. (I can vouch that cheonggukjang smells like rotting feet, though it tastes yummy.) Chef Oh says this is his failing, since there’s no way Sung-chan could have succeeded with the ingredients given, and Sung-chan is reinstated into the competition.

The second challenge involves making a dish to “suit” the special plate each participant is given. Sung-chan comes up with a concept to use common, affordable ingredients. But when he shares his idea with one of the elderly, eccentric cooks (and judges), the man shatters his bowl. Cheap food should be served with cheap dishes! In horror, Sung-chan must improvise, and he goes out to break one of the oversize kimchi-fermenting jars, using a jagged piece to serve his kimchi salad, which is placed in a fried-tofu shell. Meanwhile, Min-woo wows with his elegant blowfish sashimi — served with a tiny hint of the blowfish poison — and Bong-joo impresses with his variation on the traditional Korean chicken stew, samgaetang. This time, Bong-joo wins. (Again, I’ll discuss later.)


The final challenge: Use a mountain hen to make a classic Oonamjeong dish. It was a trademark dish of the former head chef, who didn’t pass along the recipe before he died. The catch? The current contestants have never tasted it.

Bong-joo overhears the judges discussing the upcoming challenge, and confronts his father when he says that if there’s no clear winner, he’s going to pick Sung-chan. Chef Oh reveals a devastating truth: Bong-joo isn’t the descendant of the last imperial chef. Sung-chan is. It’s a fact that Chef Oh has guarded in accordance to the wishes of Sung-chan’s great-grandfather (here we get into political intrigue). The Oh family has assumed the lineage that belongs to the Lee (Sung-chan’s) family, although not necessarily maliciously — Chef Oh wasn’t even aware he wasn’t the rightful descendant until he was in his thirties. He believes that Sung-chan is the rightful heir, and will wipe the “debt” that Oh’s family owes to Sung-chan’s. Bong-joo is dumbstruck — he put his entire life into this lie. Why did his father push him to cook if he wasn’t the rightful successor? Chef Oh answers that Sung-chan had exhibited no interest in cooking until later; ostensibly he thought it better to perpetuate the line than to let it die out.

Bong-joo reveals this truth to Sung-chan, who returns from happily picking ingredients for the dish after recalling, in a burst of excitement, that he’d tasted it once in his youth. (Jin-soo [Nam Sang-mi] has assumed the role of his assistant, to Sung-chan’s annoyance.) This whole competition was designed to hand the successorship to Sung-chan, and it’s no coincidence that Sung-chan’s the only one who tasted the dish before. Crushed and feeling deceived, Sung-chan angrily throws his ingredients into the lake. He tells his father he’s dropping out of the competition, although he doesn’t give the real reason, merely saying that Bong-joo is the rightful successor. The next day he’s gone, having given up not only the competition but his position as a chef.


Gourmet plays with a classic conflict: talent versus training. We have the technically skilled senior chefs Bong-joo and Min-woo representing the latter, while Sung-chan represents raw talent. Sung-chan takes cooking a step further, which is why he’s supposedly so good — because Bong-joo and Min-woo are sticklers for technique and classical training. This extends into their work ethics as well, like in Episode 1 when both senior chefs refused to cook for the latecomers, and Sung-chan was happy to meet their needs. Cooking, for Sung-chan, should be flexible and adaptable.

He doesn’t stop until he gets that “Ah, this is it!” moment from his dishes, while you could say that the other two chefs stop when their technique tells them to stop. To be fair, their technical skills are honed much more precisely than Sung-chan’s, and their stopping point usually results in fantastic food. But Sung-chan’s goal is more elusive, and it’s as much about his own effort as it is about the end product. In that way, Sung-chan is a loose cannon. Greater risk of failure, for sure, but greater potential for, well, greatness.

Take, for instance, his first dish, the soondae attempt. Using the fish bladder in place of traditional intestines for the sausage casing, Sung-chan deliberates for days over the perfect filling. He talks to people — an aging cook, a knifemaker — and reads up as much as he can, and is struck with the most unlikely inspirations. For instance, he comes up with his filling after eating a hard-boiled egg and noticing the yolk; he drives by the ocean and collects seawater to use.

Sung-chan’s character has an understanding — or rather, he attempts to meld his understanding, often struggling — of the Korean people and culture that works its way into the food. He thinks about the ingredients and how they contribute to a dish aside from mere taste. Why add salt and water when he can use actual seawater for that genuine essence? And it’s that extra step — steaming his sausage in seawater — that wins him the first challenge. Min-woo is praised for his beautiful design and well-balanced dish, while Bong-joo’s exercised intelligent techniques and incorporated premium ingredients (top-quality rice, incredibly rare vinegar). But Sung-chan’s dish feels like the ocean — he’s captured the essence of the fish and the challenge. His father reminds them, “The foundation for cooking is unleashing the hidden taste within the ingredients.”

Min-woo complains that Sung-chan (1) ruined his fish bladders and (2) was forced to improvise for his final product. Chef Oh says that his original soondae idea actually would have been inferior, and that his ability to produce a superior product in such circumstances is mark of his skill.

Sung-chan gets his inspiration from things in the world — he draws upon real life and real-world experience to reinvent his version — and in that way, he’s also an observer. Yes, his method is a more precarious source of inspiration than drawing upon one’s encyclopedic culinary knowledge, but his approach is more (duh) inspired.

But that doesn’t mean he’s automatically superior to the technical experts. It’s more that their styles are in conflict, not that one is an obvious winner. Bong-joo earns his second win, his thoughtful twist on samgaetang (which he calls honggaetang) by using a rarer type of black hen and steamed ginseng instead of raw. He produces a fine jar in which to deposit the bones, and answers that the bones deserve respect even in discarding. He accompanies the dish with a fine French red wine, because he feels Korean cuisine doesn’t need to be restricted to ancient tradition, and wants to present it on an international stage. (Yes, his explanation is a little fruity, I’ll grant, but in the context of the drama I’m going with it.)

Thus Bong-joo edges out Min-woo, who is cautioned for incorporating poison into his dish. It may have added a flavor kick, but serving poison with food is dangerous. Min-woo protests that he wants to introduce new flavors to the world, but the judges remind him, cooking isn’t for the chef’s benefit, it’s for the diner’s.

Sung-chan, though praised for his kimchi salad’s inventiveness, is also cautioned for his lack of discipline. He’d lost his knives, ruined his fish bladders, and broken his competition plate. Although we can argue that he wasn’t entirely at fault for any or all of these incidents, these are mistakes that are forgivable once, his father explains, but not more.


Kim Rae-won is one of those actors I haven’t really thought about much outside of his work, but IN dramas and movies I find him really solid and likable. He’s very good here, and conveys a lot of emotion. He’s an actor who can act big when he needs to, but then also pull back and be nuanced and quiet. It doesn’t hurt that Sung-chan is a likable, happy, well-mannered guy — but a lot of his charm owes to the actor.

Kwon Oh-joong as Bong-joo is solid as well — I was afraid I’d start disliking Bong-joo after he started feeling threatened by his little bro, but he managed with grace. He does feel all those ugly emotions roiling under the surface, and we get those played nicely on the actor’s face — but he remains a sympathetic character because he’s aware of his own failings, and his sense of self-disgust is enough to show he’s human, but trying to overcome his faults. Brotherly-affection scenes are among my favorites, and those brief moments — one wishing the other good luck, one congratulating the other on his win — say a lot.

There isn’t a lot to say about Nam Sang-mi as Jin-soo so far; I happen to love her so I find her endearing. She’s one of a few actresses I think can pout and act big without seeming like she’s trying too hard to seem cute. Her acting is unselfconscious and natural, and so far I have no complaints. It’s also nice to see that Jin-soo brings out some of Sung-chan’s less perfect traits — she annoys him, she prods, she inserts herself enthusiastically as part of his team — because as much as I like Kim Rae-won, I don’t want him to be a paragon.

I know I’ve talked about Gourmet like it’s the second coming of dramas, which I don’t mean to suggest. If it has a shortcoming, it’s that the series got off to a slow start, and sometimes lulls in a slow moment. It’s why it took me so long to catch up, because the setup, while necessary, was a bit predictable.

But we have some interesting character dynamics, like Bong-joo’s relationship to Joo-hee. Why did he suddenly propose in Episode 3 when they hadn’t been dating? And why did she not answer? In Episode 4, Min-woo realizes he has no shot of winning, but can’t stand the idea of Sung-chan prevailing, so he throws his support to Bong-joo, and proposes sabotaging Sung-chan’s ingredients. Bong-joo resists, but will he stay noble for long? And when Sung-chan’s goofy sous chef overhears the conversation, he stays up all night in front of Sung-chan’s food locker to guard his ingredients in an act of fierce loyalty — a total “Aww” moment for me.

I’ll admit to not having much interest in the imperial intrigue plot, but I’ll go with it. The drama hasn’t dwelt overmuch on it, so it’s not too obtrusive. It gives us justification for placing upstart Sung-chan above his accomplished brother, but as Chef Oh also assures Bong-joo, it’s not a guarantee. Because if Sung-chan truly isn’t up to the task, he won’t be granted Oonamjeong — ergo Bong-joo is still a contender — giving the conflict a bit more edge.


49 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. belleza

    Even though Gourmet was conceived before Le Grande Chef became a runaway hit, this seems awfully like it. Great for me! 😀

    I’ll need to see why he paired a big red wine against hen. Because he uhhh broke just a basic, basic rule of wine/food pairings right there.

  2. Iranian Espresso

    Thank you.
    Very Interesting.
    Thank you again.

  3. ladychick

    Gosh, those caps of food are killer!!!!! Is Korean food that tasty? When I went to Korean restaurant, the service is slow, the food is average so I have never been into Korean food that much.

  4. Row

    I always thought of Kim Rae Won as one of the most gifted actors S Korea ever produced. His acting is controlled yet natural. He’s just a pleasure to watch. Gourmet is just another masterpiece he’s created. Thanks for the summary! As always, you’re the best!

  5. belleza


    This is Korean haute, which was derived from Korean royal court cuisine. Dae Jang Geum helped bring this back into public visibility. Le Grande Chef, sleeper hit of 2007, centered around a rivalry between two guys who were the finest culinary students from the same school whose masters stretched back to kings. So it’s not just about being the next top chef, but also about generational lineage and imperial intrigue. Very appealing, and Gourmet apparently covers the same territory. Goong with kitchen knives!!

  6. shro

    food porn? that’s something i have never heard.

  7. ayana

    Thanks for the summary javabeans. I like both Kim Rae Won & Nam Sang Mi.

  8. Di

    I couldn’t watch this show even if I wanted to. Just looking at those screencaps of scrumptious foods makes me want to cry tears of joy and pain.

    Why can’t I eat it?? WHYY??

  9. JiHwan

    Those dishes look way too beautiful to eat. Isn’t Gourmet the drama version of Le Grande Chef? Le Grande Chef bored me to death so I don’t know if I want to give gourmet a try.

  10. 10 ripgal

    Finally, a drama that we both actually watch and like at the same time currently.. ^^
    I’ve also seen 4 episodes, and I totally agree with what you commented on how the drama was directed, acted and also paced out. A very good production.. so far as I can say, having watched 4 episodes.

    KRW’s no doubt convincing in his role, and Nam Sang Mi’s just endearing to watch, just like you said. Even the assistant of Sung Chan’s as convincing.. and not to mention Sung Chan’s brother Bong Joo.. he also managed to deliver his emotions very well. Somehow I think he’s quite conflicted inside.. altho the drama seemed to show that he has something against Sung Chan.. I kinda felt that he also loved Sung Chan as a brother secretly. I hope he doesn’t turn really bad or evil in the coming episodes.. cos I can see that he’s generally a good person, and if not for his father’s hidden secret and ambitions, he wouldn’t have had to endure so much pressure from the outside world, and hence, make him want the top position more than anything in the world. It’s like so ironic for me, because I feel bad for Sung Chan for always being misunderstood, but then, Bong Joo’s also very pitiful. Sighz…

    Anywayz, thanx a lot for the wonderful recap! ^_^
    I’m glad you’re following this..

  11. 11 Illdielaughing

    @belleza, hopefully this will be better and less aggravating and more mature than goong. lol
    I’ve only seen the first episode but I want to watch more. Subs are coming slow though. Fansubbers have a lot on their plates!

  12. 12 anne

    I find characters like Jin-soo annoying, but she’s bearable so far. I’m neutral with Nam Sang Mi so it can go either way.

  13. 13 len

    Does anyone know who’s subbing this drama? Can’t seem to find softsubs at d-addicts…

  14. 14 belleza

    From what I read, Gourmet had a unusually long prep time for a non-sageuk show too. Kim Rae Won was given a lot of training, so what you see is pretty dang authentic (betcha KRW can cook a mean ramen!) Only way they could have made his character’s performance more authentic would be to cast an ex-chef like Alex from Clazziquai. But, then, the show would have to be called Gourmet Pimp.

  15. 15 Kim

    I keep hearing mixed reviews about this drama.
    ZenKimchi had a post about this: http://www.zenkimchi.com/FoodJournal/?p=485
    Honestly, that was the first mention I’ve ever heard of Gourmet, so I’m a bit biased and am not very attracted to the drama.
    However, reading your review really makes it more appealing. Props for that!

    Kim Rae Won is, undoubtedly, a good actor, but I’ve also heard that he over-acts sometimes…Truth?

  16. 16 cj

    ^^ Thx for the link Kim. i’m cool with people hating on a drama for valid reasons, but if you don’t speak the language and don’t understand the conversations, you don’t have a right to call a drama “dumb.” i’ll respect an opinion when it’s made fairly. just my opinion.

  17. 17 Jo

    this is new for me to see gourmet korean food. Ive only seen korean barbecues and the traditional bibimbap etc. Im glad to see there is even a such thing. If only we had them here in chicago……

  18. 18 javabeans

    JiHwan, Le Grande Chef and Gourmet are both based on the same manhwa.

    Gourmet Pimp HAHAHA. Although, I saw a bit of that cable show Alex acted in, and let’s just say it’s only fair that he excels in ONE talent, ie singing. So, nowhere near on par with Kim Rae-won. (And funny enough, I know poultry goes with white wine, but I would rather drink red with samgaettang. I really wouldn’t drink white. And I’ve heard of some food pairings matching reds with fish, so… it can be done?)

    Personally I don’t think Kim Rae-won overacts, and is actually very good being subtle. Opposing views, anyone?

  19. 19 greenteaseoul

    I love cooking and Korean food
    but I found the first few episodes of this drama very boring
    but incredibly beautiful
    maybe i’ll pick it up again
    after reading this good review

  20. 20 nomadzky

    thank you for recapping this drama javabeans 🙂 i think Kim Rae Won is a very good actor.

  21. 21 JiHwan

    Oh thanks for the clarification Dramabeans. Oh btw, am i the only person that laughs when they see Kwon Oh Joong? I remember him as the “hand fetish” guy from God digger Miss Shin. Kinda ironic he went from “eatting” hands to cooking food. hahaha

  22. 22 Sue

    i’m actually not liking nam sangmi, and the way the writers are handling her character. her progression… (?) getting a job at oonamjung, being able to serve ted oh, declaring herself sungchan’s assistant… where’d that come from? i’m not too attracted to her acting either… it seems… forced? ie, i can tell she’s acting.

    LOVING kim raewon though. i remember hating him in love story in harvard, but for some reason i think he’s such a cutie now!

    but yay it looks like you’ve found an SBS drama that you like! 😀

  23. 23 docmitasha

    I’m glad you’re watching Gourmet too. I’m not caught up yet, which is a shame because I’m one of those who have been anticipating this forever and ever. ‘course, that means, a KRW fan. The first thing I loved about Gourmet is how you immediately accept him as this chef and you can immediately feel all these things about him: younger kid in the fam, loves to have fun, goofy, has probably wasted a bunch of time, but has talent and a good nature. KRW always manages to fit into his roles perfectly, so that the actor and the character become interchangeable for the length of the show. I always enjoy that about actors, which is why he’s one of my favorites. I love the colors and the simple cinematography too, its not as slick or trendy as recent dramas but its very…solid? I don’t like the sudden animated clips they throw in (like when Chef Oh’s tasting the food in episode 2. I understand he was ecstatic, but do we need visuals of flowers and harmony?), it always seems to cause hiccups in the flow.

    The other characters haven’t really been established that well so far, but since this is a longer drama I guess it’ll be some time. I like Joo Hee a lot, actually, and its my first time seeing her. She has a very kind face. I wonder if a kind face like that could be used to be calculating by the director? Why is she levitating to both brothers? Maybe she’s trying to figure out who Chief Oh is really going to leave the empire? Bong Joo is great, and like you said, he conveys his division and emotions well. You feel for him, yet you can’t love him. Min Woo, I dislike both the actor and the character, and I wish they didn’t have an out and out bad character. Although it fits into the competitiveness, I always have a hard time accepting bad characters without a background to place them in.

    ‘course, I’d never say KRW overacts (ever. well, maybe not ever. but I’ve conveniently forgotten his overacted scenes in past shows ;)), but now whenever I see him and begin to love his character, I always wonder: could he ever play a character you wouldn’t like so much? All his roles so far have been guys you’d like, you could imagine getting along with, or atleast you could tolerate fairly well (even the rough/rude director in Which Star Are You From was weirdly likable!). I think a lot has to do with ofcourse KRW himself, his face and his smile and mannerisms are radiant and bright, but based on what I’ve seen he can do in terms of acting, I get curious on how he’d do playing a character with shades of grey. Who’s not the hero, and doesn’t win the day, and is imperfect in all sorts of ways and you have to work to like. I’m not complaining about the way he is or the roles he does, but I’m just curious how that would be. Like maybe the role Eric played in QSS, or the difficult one Yoon Kye Sang played with his truly complex character in WAY. I would like Kim Rae Won challenged with that kind of thing once and see how he pulls it off.

    But coming back from my tangent: I like how Gourmet’s shaping up, and I’m very glad for that, because with this hype and excitement and the names, I’d be disappointed if the plot and execution didn’t match up. I’m glad it does, and I hope it continues to do so. And its good that you’ve joined in too! 🙂

    PS: Wow to your montage of food porn. The food in this show just blows my mind. The colors, the decoration, the lovely trays and serving…wow.

  24. 24 sf

    After reading your post, I’m trying desperately to not hate Jin Soo but for some reason, she just is so LOUD O_o…. By episode 5 her every screech was just grating my ears. And I confess (I know this is scripted) but I found her nagging her way into things like being KRW’s assistant and for chrissake serving important people makes her terribly, well, pushy. I hope she’ll grow on me later but for now i’d take Joo Hee any day. She’s kind of one dimensional compared to the 3 male leads but she has a sweet, mature character that doesn’t try to always have everything her way 😛

    Overall though, I think most of the actors have been delivering great nuanced performances. A surprise character for me was Bong Joo. I saw him in Miss Gold Digger and didn’t think much of him, except creepiness….but here, he really delivers the play of emotions that is required of him… Simultaneously looking proud of his brother yet jealous. Minwoo is a bit of a surprise for me too. On the surface he just seems like a really bitchy character (it was weird seeing how friendly he was in real life on the “Gourmet Special” episode) but you do get a great feel of his desire to be good yet being hampered by his own feelings of inadequacy (and dare I say, lack of familial background and personal connections). I think you nailed it when you said Minwoo “is skilled, but his personal shortcomings make him a nightmare to be around.”

    Side note: I get the impression Minwoo is supposed to represent “beautiful foods” (sometimes with sacrifice in taste). Honestly, all of Minwoo’s foods are the most gorgeous and aesthetically pleasing and he seems to enjoy making everything into flowers from dumplings to dried fish/ray thing @ the Japanese convention in Epi 1. But obviously, when it comes down too it, Minwoo would rather have something look good rather than taste good (and not poisonous ^0^. I think Bong Joo represents being well-rounded in both a training and creativity but lacking true passion for food (as seen by his fixation on increasing revenue).

    I have to avoid watching this drama past 9pm though….I get so hungry otherwise XD Your screencaps are great btw and I’m thrilled you’re capping the series!

  25. 25 snoopy

    Being a food addict, I’ve been waiting for subs to come out. I began the series this weekend and aftet epi 2, I was like “hmm, i think i like this – it’s a pity Javabeans hasn’t given her opinions on this one”
    I’m glad you will be recapping this, I didn’t get hooked by any of the other dramas airing right now.
    I don’t know many of the korean dishes they talk about, but how I wish I did. I think those who knows the dishes or ingredients are enjoying this drama 10x more.

  26. 26 jinkzz

    thanks for the episodes 1-4 recap Javabeans…this drama has a special appeal for me…not only because KRW is such an eyecandy but also because it features korean cooking which i have grown to love over the years.

  27. 27 kichie

    i am def gonna watch this when subbing is finished ^_^
    i’m not a fan of KRW but i LOVE korean food!
    thanks for this, sarah!

  28. 28 o-cha

    I’m glad you’re doing the Gourmet recaps. I find this drama to be enjoyable…and me being a bit of a foodie..what else can I ask in a drama? lol.

  29. 29 Yu Mei

    i’ve just watched the 2 episode with sub..I love it..the food preparation was amazing and the cast were amazing too…
    Thanks for planning to continue to summarize for this wonderful drama…
    thanks javabeans!!!

  30. 30 bird

    OMG was so excited when i saw you were finally re-capping this series! would kiss you if i could!

    i love nam sang mi too.. she’s so so pretty and she just has this cheery, endearing quality that makes you take to her immediately. kim rae won, not so much after which star (though i loved him in attic cat), though much of that can be attributed to the schizophrenic way his character was scripted. he’d be cheery one moment, then oddly emo the next. but he’s coming along nicely in this show!

    still not digging kim so yeon as the kind girl, probably because i can’t stop thinking how evil she was in all about eve haha. but the food! mmm more than enough to keep me hanging around

  31. 31 pandapop


    Thank you for your excellent summaries. I really like this show too. Do the colors of the chef uniform mean anything here? Sung- chan wears blue, while Bong –joo and Min- woo both wear orange…Why? Just curious…..

    I like the actor who plays Bong joo. He was in Secret Lover . He started out as a villain, but ended up as lovable as he could be. He is very sexy in my eyes. ^~^.

  32. 32 haj

    yeah, the bongjoo actor is super sexy:) i keep picturing him in a fedora, black leather gloves an one eye huger than the other in a menacing expression- form “island teacher” with whatshername lee donggun’s ex.
    sungchan’s sous chef if so cute! in a goofy way

  33. 33 Skangrrl

    Er, where can we find the eps with Eng subs please? Been waiting for subs till I watch this as I want to understand every word of the food preparations and descriptions!

    Any show with food porn is one that I have to watch!

    OK, Sarah … re question about fish and wine pairing, traditionally you would pair fish with white wine so as not to overwhelm the taste of the fish. However, it depends on the preparation of the fish and the type of fish. Take for example a hearty, rustic Spanish fish stew which you may drink with a light red or a spicy fish dish which may need a more mellow red than a light white.

    OK, I am getting hungry again …

  34. 34 belleza

    Yeah, Skangrrl has a good point. Pairing a mild poutry like game hen with red wine is counterintuitive, but Korean food emphasizes bold, earthy flavors, like some Spanish food. That’s why I’m interested in the game hen+red pairing — it might make sense.


    Yeah, “lee donggun’s ex” is the formerly single-eye lidded Han Ji Hye, the snarkiest actress in K-drama.

  35. 35 ellie

    lovely recap!
    I was at first adamant to see KRW latest drama, now I understand why it was pushed far til mid of this year..

    And the food, I had korean food when I was in college somewhere in Makati and since then I liked it, never been to Korea, but planning to first quarter next year.
    Because of this drama, (and also a foodie addict) I will go and hopefully sample haute cuisine authentic, eye popping, mouth watering Korean dishes.

    Nway, I have no problems with red wine and chicken, I think the native chicken they used mostly have reddish meat, which by standards will taste better with red wine (wonder what kind of red French was used) it will bring out more of its rustic flavour, I guess?

    Looking forward for more in the future.

    p.s. anyone knows proper Korean restaurants in Seoul, or anywhere for that matter?

  36. 36 Felicity

    Haha…I’m definitely going to watch this one cos 1) It’s been awhile since I saw Kim Rae Won in anything 2) I enjoyed Le Grand Chef and want to compare with the drama version 3) Food is glorious. Do we need another reason to watch? 🙂

  37. 37 Rachael

    Well at first I wasn’t sure about watching this, but once again you’ve steered me to another drama I was procrastinating on (the other was Que Sera Sera). For some reason I’ve been cautious on (we’ll call them) “food dramas.” Don’t know why. Once the subs are done I’ll certainly be taking a gander at this one. Though I’ll need a pitcher of water next to me because I already feel slightly hungry just by looking at the pictures. Otherwise this drama reminds me I still haven’t tried Korean food yet, and I would like to.

    Heh, all of those sumptuous dishes make me wonder why there’s not an Iron Chef Korea for me to watch.

  38. 38 djoching

    who is the PD of this drama? how come in the credits only the producer and writers are mentioned?

  39. 39 Philippa

    I really like this drama! I’ve only seen up to episode 3…
    Thanks a lot!

  40. 40 Anonymous


  41. 41 Buzz

    Doesn’t parts of this Drama sound familiar to anyone?
    Three brother’s, one of whom is adopted.
    A contest to see who will take over.
    The adopted son is favored by his adopted father.
    It’s Jumong (with food).

  42. 42 lisa

    SInce YA entertainment has licensed the drama it won’t be hosted on d-addicts. However I am getting my subs from BONS at http://bonchu.net46.net/gourmet/#more-24, they are up to episode seven. Although I really love this drama so far and will likely still buy the box set when its available for my collection.

  43. 43 amanda

    I’ve watched 1-4 and i hate sung-chuns assistant. I think i’m supposed to feel sympathy for him but i just want to punch him in the face!
    I love watching and seeing what they come up at every competition

  44. 44 Cookies

    I Love this show so much! I especially like KRW There 🙂 I congratulate him for winning a award for being an excellent active actors in that drama. Even though I’m filipino but I like K-Dramas, Theres so good! on the funny part in that drama was that the new guy after that annoying guy got fired because the way he talks all the cooks and assistance, so funny! ( Episode 7)

    If anyone want to see some part of that drama, click here or paste (they still updating the whole episode in several months)

  45. 45 WaLu

    Gourmet is a really goood drama.. one of the best.. i think.. but.. the subs are not ready yet.. i meann.. right now i’m in episode 12– and i’ve been waiting a lot for the next one.. i suggest u should wait a little bit longer.. when all the episodes r already subbed.. cause.. it’s horrible.. to be waiting and cheking all the weeks 🙂

  46. 46 ChiliPepper

    Just finished watching Gourmet… and I love it!!
    Don’t care so much about the plots…too lame and predictable for my taste.
    Love it because of KRW’s natural acting skills, he really brighten up the show.
    Love it because of those BEAUTIFULLLL mouthwatering dishes.
    Love it because of Korea’s breathtaking scenery.
    So, for someone who loves to travel and eat spicy food (be it Thai, Chinese, Korean, Mexican…whatever!), I have to give this drama a high rating.
    (Eh, did I mention about KWR in his tight Tshirts also help with the “view”? :0)

  47. 47 rainbow

    these dishes look delicious. i’m font of korean food, can somebody teach me to make some simple kind of them, plz! :d 😡

  48. 48 mere lin

    Honestly, I watched this because of Kim Rae Won as I love all his works so far (yes, that including ‘Say you love me’.) I am super glad he delivers a fine performance in ‘Gourmet’.

    It’s a worthy drama – for many reasons. It’s like a fun class on Korean food and culture! =)

    Thank you for recapping this.

  49. 49 Neal Greenberg (please post me anonymously)

    Thanks for your insightful reviews. I do think that this isn’t a made up style of cuisine. A friend of mine comes from Korea and his family runs high cuisine restaurants in Korea. He showed me a picture book of his grandmother’s cooking. Amazing. I only wish I knew where to get such beautiful creations. I don’t think the subtleties of preparation, such as squeezing the tofu in order to maintain the sweetness, or the problem with using an odorless bean paste, or the subtlety of flavors derived from pouring hot water over the fish bladder-can be recreated without having a very real basis in actual cuisine. Too bad nothing like this restaurant is in the U.S. I wonder if there’s really restaurants like this in Korea? There’s a Chinese chef with amazing carving skills hidden away in Flushing-so there is definately the kind of visual presentation in Asia that exists.

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