To say that cooking is a hot topic right now in Korea would be an understatement. Celebrity-studded cooking shows like Naengjanggo Butakhae (Take Care of My Fridge) and Samshi Saekki (Three Meals a Day) have been getting extraordinary ratings; the popularity of Instagram hashtags like #먹스타그램 (eatgram) and #맛스타그램 (tastegram) have exploded; and a growing number of Korean chefs have become celebrities in their own right.
In this atmosphere of excitement around the art of cuisine we’ve also seen a group of young chef-owners rise to the forefront of the Korean fine-dining scene, bringing back with them to Korea an unprecedented level of experience and expertise from previous jobs in the best kitchens around the world. Many have attended prestigious (and grueling) institutions like the Culinary Institute of America. In some cases, blending this experience with local, homegrown knowledge of Korean food has resulted in the rise of the so-called “neo-Korean” cuisine. While good food and excellent chefs are certainly nothing new in Seoul, there’s something special about this wave of culinary artists. Whether it’s the level of professionalism they’re bringing to the scene, their creativity or their daring and willingness to challenge local palates, there’s something exciting going on here. A new epoch in fine dining is opening up in Seoul, and here are the young chefs who are at the vanguard of it all.