Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Korean Food Event at Robinson College of Cambrige University

Chef, Sam and Stuart are cooking vegetables for the Korean food event

Chef, Stuart and me, preparing Bulgogi
In  March I had e-mail from Dr Michael Shin, a Korea Study lecturer at the Robinson College of  Cambridge university about Korean Food Event , he is planning  to organise  in a couple of month.
He was asking me whether I am interested in teaching college chef and cooking with them for 60 invited guests at Korean Food Event.
Well, well, I was delighted and very surprised same time, how did he find out my name? as I do not have a web site and not advertising in any form. Does he read my blog?
Any way one thing I have to tell him first. I e mailed him that I am not a qualified chef , I am teaching Korean home cooking not restaurant food, did he know about this?
He said still like to work with me even he did not taste my food or even met me.
I decided to have a go with a brave smile and a kind of encouragement by his a huge risk taking decision.
 I and head chef, college catering team met on 11th of April , and discussed on Menu. Dr Shin and I had prior talk through e mail and I made menu based on this discussion. we agreed to put 2 iconic Korean food, Bulgogi and Kimchi ( I offered that I will bring my own home made kimchi as a my contribution)
1st of May is the day!!
Head chef, Gary has been looking into the recipes of bulgogi on Internet but he said he could not understand some aspect of recipes, luckily I had prepared my own recipes, and we made a decision 3 cooked dishes and 2 salad, my own home made baechu  kimchi. 
 Of course I have to consider for the vegetarian menu as well.
College kitchen is huge, around 20 kitchen staffs are working , I had given a corner to work on, and a dedicated chef , Stewart with me all the time. He will learn from me and add  Korean dishes in their menu for the students and conference meal. 
The plan was I arrive 11:00 Am at the kitchen and cook with chef Stewart as a trial and taste with Dr Shin and prepare for the evening meal.
Korean Food Event 1st May 2013, Menu:
1. Bulgogi  with lettuce and ssamjang  /  slow cooked tofu and bean paste stew ( vegetarian) 
2. Spicy Squid with vegetables / Various vegetables, fried tofu with spicy sauce
3.Seafood pancake with dipping sauce/ spring onion and shitake mushroom pancake.
Salad: 1, My own home made kimchi. 2. Cucumber salad ( Korean style)
3. Red cabbage, pear, apple, mooli carrot salad ( lemon, sesame oil dressing) 4. Namul
Steamed Korean rice .
Dessert; fruits salad, cinnamon punch and sikhye( rice punch)
By 12:00 noon, we made all trial dish and Dr Shin seemed satisfied at the tasting , it was not easy to marinade 14kg of beef, I had to spread beef on a huge roasting tin and  pour over marinating sauce, I truly lost sense of quantity. I just hoped for the best. Chefs were shouting all the time to me, is it OK chef??? what to do next chef? Shall I add this and that chef?
I had to get use to this, call me CHEF! and answer quickly. Now I understand why they shout chef , chef! in the professional kitchen.   Really, I felt I am commanding a ship.
I must say that all college staffs and chefs were so welcoming me in their kitchen and all very appreciative  and willing to help. Chefs were so eager to learn new recipes.  It was such a joy work with them.  Most of all they loved the flavour of Korean food.
 Spicy squid with vegetables

Tofu Stew

Korean food buffet
Finally all hungry students and with professors arrived, I had to give 3 minutes speech about food I and chefs made, it was a scary moment.
All day I carried with my nervous energy and excitement , but could not eat or drink.
Korean professors and students loved my kimchi and bulgogi specially, I made new kimchi and slightly fermented one, which is my favourite. when a good kimchi is fermented you have sparkling taste ( like fizzy drink)to it.
True Korean fashion, I made a few box of food ( kimchi, and bulgogi( uncooked) to take home for the professor and students. 

It was a successful event, I was hugely relived I have done this and so satisfying to hear all chefs are impressed by Korean flavour and how different than other.  Most of all they loved the food!! 
I suppose to spend night at the college but came home, took late train to London and home for unwind, put feet up with a long drink in hand.
Dr Shin and I talked about Globalisation of Korean food, which Korean government's movement , but they seemed promoting so called Lee dynasty Royal court recipes, we agreed,  this is a wrong decision, first of all nobody make this kind of showy food at home or at restaurant, so how ordinary foreign country people would appreciate this old fashioned stuffy food in this modern fast moving world?  We failed comprehend the decision, Who knows???????
Dr Shin thinks for the effective Korean Globalisation movement, it has to start at the university, I totally agree with this, because the students are the our future.
Thinking back I could have done better,  I now know how could be able to do better next time ( if there is next time) .  I was very emotional , but learnt a lot , certainly it was one of the greatest experience I ever had in my cooking career. (if I can call it as career, than hobby)
I do feel so proud that knowing, Dr Shin & I made a small history , the very first time I made Korean food ( my own recipe! nothing can be better than this) at Cambridge and they will put in the menu, feel so good !!
 I came truly a long way from Masan ( my home town, south east Korea) to
Cambridge !!    


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