We recently participated in a taping of Top Chef Korean Food Challenge produced by Cathlyn Choi, Host and Producer of Cathlyn’s Korean Kitchen cooking show. It was quite a surprise that we were contacted by a representative from Korea Herald Business to be one of the six honorable blogger judges among 3 main judges. The event was held on February 10th at the San Diego Wine & Culinary Center where it was set up with lighting and camera equipment to film the live cooking show. The entire experience was really fun and interesting, especially getting to be behind-the-scenes to see how a cooking show is filmed. This special 1 hour program is scheduled to be broadcasted on PBS on April 7, 2011 at 9PM PST.
This amazing event is part of buzz KOREA , the global campaign of Korea Tourism Organization organized to introduce Korean culture to the world, especially Korean cuisine. Which is why Cathlyn Choi challenged 3 teams of 2 chefs from select restaurants to each prepare a popular Korean dish that was randomly selected by the chefs on the show. Each dish, which was created in 30 minutes, was judged on originality, taste, and presentation – and let me just say, I was extremely impressed with the level of skill and creativity that each chef presented for our tasting pleasure. It was visually appealing and flavorful and brought Korean cuisine to a whole new level.
Pictured here in front of the San Diego Wine & Culinary Center, ready to eat and judge!
A wonderful medley of Korean dishes were set-up for the cast and crew to enjoy before filming began. This was more like a buffet, really.
Daniel also accompanied me on our trip to San Diego for the taping, but he did not sit in as a guest judge. Instead, he pigged out on the Korean food for lunch. Who wouldn't?
This event was produced by Carma Media & Entertainment in cooperation with Korea Herald Business in Los Angeles. The crew was great!
The contestants consisted of 3 teams from 3 different restaurants: Villa Saverios (Tijuana MX), Bluewater Grill (Tustin/Redondo Beach) and Marine Room (La Jolla).
Here is a picture of Cathlyn Choi, host and producer of Cathlyn's Korean Kitchen. She is America's only Korean celebrity chef and television personality who is currently producing Season 3 of her cooking show called "Cathlyn's Korean Food Challenge." It is expected to premiere on KOCE/OC, the PBS Channel, in June.
The three main judges were Barbara Hansen, editor of LA Weekly, James Kyson Lee, best known for his role of Ando Masahashi on the NBC television series Heroes, and Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee, author of Quick and Easy Korean Cooking.
I sat with my two fellow blogger judges: Jenn from Just Jenn Recipes and Fiona from Gourmet Pigs. We had a blast trying the chefs' unique creations of the classic Korean dishes.
The other guest bloggers included Lori Lynn from Taste of the Eyes, Veronica from Food Glorious Food OC, and Anita Lau from Diary of a Mad Hungry Woman.
The first team that went was the Red Team, which consisted of Chef Javier Plascencia and Chef Adria Montano from Villa Saverios in Tijuana, Mexico. They randomly selected these Korean dishes to prepare in 30 minutes: Dak Galbi and Kalbi jjhim.
This is the beautifully plated Dak Galbi, which is a Korean chicken stew. Chef Adria Montano put a very zesty Mexican spin on this Korean dish and made it look extra elegant.
Chef Javier Plascencia created Kalbi jjhim which is Korean braised short ribs. The sweet marinade of the meat was so tender and flavorful. It was actually one of my favorite dishes.
The main judges tasted the food on camera and provided their input and comments on the first team's dishes. Their feedback was very insightful.
Next up, the White Team prepared their selected Korean dishes: Bibimbap and Tteokbokki.
Chef Bernard Guillas whipped up an interesting version of Bibimbap that is plated in a way that probably none of us have ever seen before! Chef Bernard also presented the classic dish in a hot stone bowl, but we were presented with a small plated Bibimbap with an adorable fried quail egg. It's culinary genius!
Chef Ron Oliver from San Diego made this Tteokbokki dish. I don't know what's harder - to spell it or to pronounce it! Tteokbokki, also known as Ddeokbokki, or also Nyebokki, is a popular Korean snack food which is a braised dish of sliced rice cake, meat, eggs, and seasoning. The rice cakes had a nice chewy texture with a surprising kick of spiciness.
On our end of the judging table, we had to score each chef's dish from a scale of 1-5. We were also filmed eating, but did not have to speak our comments on camera. Whew!
And lastly, the final Blue Team from Orange County prepared probably the two most difficult dishes to do in 30 minutes: Kimchi and Gu Jeol Pan. Good luck fermenting Kimchi in half an hour!
In case you were wondering, we were drinking a variety of Korean alcoholic beverages and wine while we waited for the chefs to complete their cooking.
Chef Graham Norton made a unique interpretation of Kimchi. He created a Kimchi salad that had a lot of ingredients throughout the dish, including Asian pear, sardines, and raspberry vinegar. Quite an eclectic bunch of ingredients to say the least. I wasn't too fond of the flavors nor the plating, as it looked like a mess. But I do have to give him the Bravery Award for taking on this frightening and difficult task of making Kimchi in 30 minutes on camera. Bravo, bravo.
The last dish we got to try was Chef Brian Hirsty's Gujeolpan. This classic and elaborate Korean dish consists of nine different foods assorted by color and ingredients. It's bad enough trying to make one dish in 30 minutes, but to make this poor chef do nine dishes is beyond me! He managed to pull through with sweat and tears to get this accomplished. All I can say is that the Blue Team definitely got the short end of the stick when they randomly selected these choices for the competition.
After the cooking and judging was complete, Cathlyn announced the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners. Yes, that's right - everyone came home a winner with a nice prize. And of course, that's a wrap!
I took a picture with Executive Chef Bernard Guillas and Chef Ron Oliver after the taping. If you are in the San Diego area, make sure you check out their restaurant, Marine Room in La Jolla.
Overall, this meaningful event was a lot of fun to participate in as a guest judge. I’m glad I was given the opportunity to learn and try different Korean dishes through this experience, and be able to share this with our readers. We would like to sincerely thank Jin Kim and Alex Choi for their efforts in helping us be a part of this event. Korea Tourism Organization is excited to share the beauty of Korean culture and cuisine, so creating the Top Chef Korean Food Challenge was a brilliant idea to introduce this campaign to the world.
A voting event will be arranged on www.buzz-korea.com as a second part of the competition. They will have people vote online to choose the winner starting March 2nd. In addition, there is a competition for the best posting from the bloggers that participated in the judging. We hope you enjoyed the recap of this event and will deeply appreciate your vote for us! But our main message here is to spread the beauty of Korean cuisine! Tune in on April 7th, 2011 at 9PM PST for the premiere of the show on KOCE/OC, the PBS Channel. Please check your local listings here .