FACES OF KOREA - Female Korean Chef Wins International Competition

by K4E with Eugne CHOI, 23/08/2013

At one time, not so long ago, hotel and fine dining was provided by foreign chefs, men. Today, there are more and more talented Korean chefs creating/preparing international dishes both in Korea and out. And, there are an increasing number of women among them. One such is JUNG Ha Yeon from Pullman Grand Ambassador Seoul.

Chef Jung was one of the winners of the Accor Professions Challenge World Final held in Paris this past January. The competition gives young staff or interns employed in the chain worldwide the opportunity to compete against each other through challenges held under real-life conditions. This was the first year Asia participated and Chef Jung ranked first in the cookery category (23/26 age group).

The 25 countries participating in the 10th Accor Challenge included Australia, Austria, Brazil, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Italy, Luxembourg, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, the United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates.

Selected in their region, then on the national level in their country, the final winners were chosen by a jury made up of hotel directors and managers in timed  on-the job challenges in their discipline: reception, table service, cookery and bar service – the hotel trade's four main professions. This year's challenge attracted 73 talented young people from 25 countries. To get to Paris, Chef Jung beat out her competition in Seoul and then Korea....a significant honour since it was the first time Asian countries had entered the competition (also the first year for the Americas).

The cooking category involved a two-part challenge. Basically the participants had to prepare a dish from a basket of ingredients known in advance and then to devise a recipe using the contents in a ‘surprise’ basket. Two of the new Asian participating countries won the category – Bilap Kuma Patra from India shone in the 19/22 year old category, and of course, in the 23/25 category, Seoul’s Ha Yeon Jung took the prize.

Chef Jung credits British TV chef Jamie Oliver with inspiring her to become a chef. She, along with many Koreans, enjoyed watching the ‘Naked Chef’ and learning about Western cuisine. However, her interest in food was initiated and encouraged by her father, a food wholesaler. As a child, she loved accompanying to the markets and from him, learned a lot about the basics of food, long before she began thinking what she would like to do with her life. Having majored in Culinary Arts in university, Ms. Jung interned at the JW Marriot Starr Pass Resort & Spa before being hired at the Grand Ambassador Seoul in 2010.

She enjoys preparing pasta dishes at THE KING’s restaurant but her winning recipies were definitely not in that category. From the ingredients in her box challenge (cucumber, avocado, shrimp and beetroot) she prepared cucumber rolled with asparagus and shrimp with a citron sauce. Her other contest challenge resulted in a dish featuring cooked cod with soy sauce wrapped with egg yolk.

When asked what she likes to prepare at home, Chef Jung explained that she mainly cooks Korean dishes at home, with ‘japchae’ (sweet potato noodles stir fried in sesame oil with various vegetables) being one of her favourites.

Her ultimate ambition is to create a ‘signature dish’ that will please the palate of Korean and foreign gastronomes and to enhance the international reputation of Korean chefs.

Image: Chef Ha Yeon JUNG - Pullman Grand Ambassador Seoul with Denis Hennequin, CEO Accor

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