Not as much foodie talk today, as you can see. Or, I should say, there’s not as much literal cooking going on, although food is still our main source of concern, what with Oonamjeong’s fate hanging in the balance.
SONG OF THE DAY
Gourmet OST – “늘 푸른 풍경처럼” (Green scenery like always) by Taru [ Download ]
EPISODE 22 RECAP
The mood at Oonamjeong is pretty dire, with rumors swirling of corporate shakeup, all of their clientele canceling reservations, and Min-woo’s faction stirring things up and conspiring with the Japanese restaurant mogul Matsumoto. The latter is done in secret, though, and remains unknown to Chef Oh and Bong-joo, who can only hope to ride out this rough patch. But they both know that the results of the upcoming board meeting, where a vote will be taken to determine Bong-joo’s continued stewardship of the restaurant, may very well be against him.
As for Matsumoto, he turns down Jin-soo’s request for an interview via his junior executive (the Japanese visitor to Oonamjeong — in the previous episode I had assumed the young guy was Matsumoto, but it turns out he’s Matsumoto’s representative, Kimura. Matsumoto himself is played by a Korean actor affecting a weird Japanese-ish accent). After Jin-soo is turned away, however, Matsumoto flips through an issue of Point Magazine and sees a profile of Sung-chan. Noting that Jin-soo’s name is on the article, he instructs Kimura to arrange a meeting with her.
Jin-soo hears about the Oonamjeong rumors and rushes to Sung-chan. The stress is wearing on him, and she can tell from his reaction that the rumors are true.
With their machinations falling into place, Director Yoon and Min-woo await the final blow: stripping Bong-joo of his managerial position at the upcoming meeting. Min-woo: “Do you think Bong-joo will just step aside?” Yoon: “If he doesn’t step aside, what can he do? He’s finished now.”
In the meantime, Sung-chan and Bong-joo both (separately) do their best to talk to the other investors one-on-one to persuade them to vote for Bong-joo, but everybody has already been effectively swayed by a higher power. Even CEO Jang refuses to help. Both Sung-chan and Bong-joo feel that these movements — like shutting down all of Oonamjeong’s overseas prospects — are too large in scope for the Oonamjeong board alone. They believe a more powerful mastermind must be behind these actions, but are unable to locate the source.
Rendered helpless, Bong-joo finally puts his pride aside and kneels before Yoon, supplicating for help. Yoon remains unmoved, and Bong-joo is left out to dry. Despite the way Joo-hee’s relationship with him collapsed, she feels this is too much and pleads with her father, but he doesn’t listen to her.
When Matsumoto meets with Jin-soo, he asks her about Sung-chan and requests a meeting. He doesn’t state his reasons, leaving her puzzled as to his intentions. Knowing how preoccupied Sung-chan is, she’s reluctant to bring up the subject, but she words her request nicely enough to convince him to agree to the meeting (she points out that Matsumoto, being a successful businessman, might be a good person to have on his side if he wants some advice on how to pick Oonamjeong up out of its troubles).
At the meeting, both are surprised when Matsumoto asks a favor of Sung-chan: to prepare a particular traditional Korean dish using a particular, rare type of freshwater shrimp. He makes the request politely, but Sung-chan is taken aback (it’s an oddly personal request to make of a complete stranger). Although he’s quite busy now, Sung-chan promises to cook for the man sometime before he returns to Japan. As they leave the meeting, Jin-soo apologizes to Sung-chan, not having anticipated this kind of meeting.
Up in the hotel suite, Matsumoto gazes down at a photograph of him and Chef Oh standing in front of Oonamjeong — clearly there is more to his story than meets the eye.
At the board meeting, Bong-joo is voted out. Afterward, he asks Min-woo, “Why you too? Did I treat you that badly?” Min-woo smirks: “That’s your problem — you realize important things too late.” Touché.
Sung-chan asks Bong-joo, “You’re not going to give up Oonamjeong, are you?” He can’t give up, not like this. But Bong-joo, numb with shock, answers that there’s nothing more he can do.
Chef Oh, already ill, grows worse still. Yet his concern is more for Bong-joo than his own, and you know you’re in a bad spot when your dying father pities you. (Chef Oh: “I feel so sorry for Bong-joo, what do we do?”)
With his father ill and his brother pushed out, Sung-chan steps back into the kitchen to positive reception — Joo-hee and Chef Oh approve, and even Jong-gu finds his return to be a welcome source of motivation for their sluggish, downspirited team. Sung-chan chides the sous chef(s) for thinking pessimistically that they have nothing to do now that their clientele has dropped off. Sung-chan rallies them into action by reminding them their jobs as chefs remains the same whether they have one customer or many.
Jin-soo’s been bothered by the Matsumoto situation, and her editor confirms her suspicions by telling her that Matsumoto’s taking over Oonamjeong. She remembers seeing Min-woo’s group at the hotel, and puts the pieces together. She rushes to Sung-chan to inform him that Matsumoto (working with Min-woo and Oonamjeong insiders) is the mastermind behind Oonamjeong’s troubles, and they head over to see him.
Meanwhile, the backstabbing trifecta — Min-woo, Yoon and Yong — eagerly anticipate the shakeup to come. They aren’t sure what Matsumoto will do when he takes over, but they seem to think it will be good — for the restaurant, yes, but more importantly, for themselves.
As they’re exiting Matsumoto’s suite, they come face to face with Sung-chan, who takes one look at their guilty faces and clocks Min-woo in the face. He accuses them of selling out Oonamjeong, to which they defend their actions by saying this was their way of pulling it out of crisis. Sung-chan hardly thinks selling it off to Matsumoto is an effective crisis management tactic.
Now that he knows the full story, Sung-chan confronts Matsumoto (who had called him for a meeting) about his intentions to take over. He accuses Matsumoto — successful owner of 50-plus gourmet Japanese restaurants worldwide — of co-opting Korean cuisine, passing it off as Japanese, and adding to his own wealth. Matsumoto corrects him, saying he only wants to show genuine Korean food to the world, and that’s a goal that need not be disdained merely because he’s not Korean. Thus, in his desire to showcase true, genuine Korean cooking, he needs Sung-chan. He wants him — Oonamjeong’s heir — to take over.
Sung-chan flatly refuses. Then, on his way out, he receives a call telling him his father has taken a turn for the worst.
With one son by his deathbed, Chef Oh calls out for his other son. Joo-hee rushes out to find Bong-joo and bring him back to his father’s side as soon as possible.
She finds him a bit ragged and still brooding, and tells him of his father’s failing condition. Instantly, Bong-joo is overwhelmed with panic and grief, all his other emotions replaced by a feeling of guilt.
Thus his first rushed words when arriving back home are a torrent of apologies: “I’m truly sorry, Father, I was wrong…” Chef Oh tells his son, “I’m sorry for making things difficult for you,” to which Bong-joo immediately bursts out with more regrets: “No, Father, I’m sorry…” Talk about a rude awakening. It’s enough to make you pity Bong-joo (almost).
Struggling to impart some important last messages, Chef Oh tells his sons it’s their job to preserve Oonamjeong’s taste and legacy. He also assures him — probably something he’d been trying to tell them this whole series long — “If you combine your hearts and your purpose, Oonamjeong’s path will open.”
That night, Sung-chan sleeps by his father’s side, dreaming all the times he’d spent with his father. Chef Oh awakens and smiles to see Sung-chan seemingly enjoying his sleep, and when Sung-chan wakes a moment later, Chef Oh asks what happy dreams he’d had. Sung-chan answers that he was remembering their fishing trip, and suggests that on their next trip, they ought to bring Bong-joo along.
Chef Oh answers, “Yes,” closing his eyes on a smile. Sung-chan muses that Bong-joo has always been good at fishing, and asks if his father had taught him. When he receives no response, Sung-chan looks over — and the smile oh-so-slowly fades from his face. He asks in a trembling voice, “Father? Are you sleeping?” but the truth dawns on him.
He bursts out in loud cries for his father to wake up, which brings Bong-joo to the door.
Bong-joo rushes to his father’s side — Sung-chan’s already realized that he’s dead and sobs in loud bursts — and Bong-joo’s words spill out in a flood of sorrow: “Father, I’m sorry, I was wrong, I’m sorry…”
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Matsumoto’s master plan: here’s where I’m not sure I agree with Gourmet (at least, not entirely). The thing is, I’m not convinced that what he’s doing is so wrong. Matsumoto’s vision isn’t terribly off from Bong-joo’s, only he may have the wherewithal to accomplish the task even more successfully.
I understand the reason for opposition. Part of Chef Oh and Sung-chan’s opposition is an extension of their resistance to Bong-joo’s franchising plans. Oonamjeong, which has a storied history of operating independently, has built itself on its premium food and its repetition, and farming that out to franchises is risky.
And yet, this turn seems to be so much worse because it’s an outside buyer taking over, and worse still because it’s a Japanese magnate. While I understand their horror in losing control of the restaurant, I don’t see why Matsumoto’s Japanese-ness should matter. Like he said, does it matter that the person attempting this venture isn’t Korean? Shouldn’t his desire to spread real Korean cuisine to the world be a noble enough goal? After all, the initial concern that they would be passing off watered-down Korean food as Japanese turns out to be false — hence Matsumoto’s desire to bring in Sung-chan to assure a high standard of quality. This isn’t really co-opting; it’s not like he’s proposing to remake Korean food to appeal to Western palates, or to change the recipes to be more marketable, or to use cheaper ingredients. He just wants to take the essence of Oonamjeong — the true, genuine, tradition-based Oonamjeong — and find a way to make it accessible to an international audience. That in itself is not such an evil thing.
Matsumoto’s takeover is kind of like your favorite indie operation being bought out by Wal-Mart, mass-produced on a massive scale, and slapped with a blanket assurance that “Don’t worry, we’re still the same quality that we always were!” That’s a valid concern, and I understand the point being made — the argument just shouldn’t have anything to do with the Japanese-ness of the buyer. So while I see the point, I chafe at the nationalistic undertones of the explanation.
This last scene was particularly well-done, especially Kim Rae-won’s reaction to his father’s death. In the moments before Sung-chan realizes what’s happened, the camera stays on Kim Rae-won’s face for such an extended moment that you think the screen has paused — but it’s not the frame that has frozen, it’s his face, his expression. Seconds pass — long, frozen moments pregnant with dread — and slowly you see the fear enter his face as he asks, “A-are you sleeping?”
He fights to hold back the gut instinct telling him that his father is dead, and reaches over to beg him to wake up — and when he understands that that will not happen, his face crumples.
You can see the stages of grief transpire in these short moments (i.e., denial, anger, bargaining…), but he conveys them so naturally that you don’t necessarily notice; but when you break it down you can see that they’re there, forming the framework of his reaction. That long, long, long moment on his face is wonderful and awful, and really made this episode for me.