To end the drama with a cook-off — how characteristic of Gourmet.
Although in the first round of appetizer, Sung Chan lost by a single point, the highlight of the competition has just begun. The two main dishes will determine, or even overturn the current result. The bad news is, Sung Chan doesn’t take the current score very well. He is sweating like a pig. (Quick, Jin Soo, give him a hug AND a kiss so he can stop fidgeting!)
Choking with the fear of failure and crushed by the heavy burden of saving the Un Ahm Jung that embodies his entire existence, his father’s painstaking effort, and his brother’s vision and dream, Sung Chan is having a nervous break down before everyone’s eyes. Near tears, Sung Chan drops his knife. Matsumoto pulls the corner of his lip up in a wicked smile, almost certain that he had successfully cracked Sung Chan.
Not so fast. The door opens in the distance, Bong Joo, dressed in the chief’s uniform (long time no see! I mean Bong Joo in the cooking mode), walks into the competition and joins Sung Chan after tending to the appropriate salutations. The morale surged exponentially on Un Ahm Jung’s side. Min Woo apologizes to Bong Joo and they start a new round of intense cook-off.
Sung Chan has chosen lobster with octopus as the main course material. Bong Joo deliberates for a fraction of a second and decides that the combination of these material will not prove to be sufficient for the competition against Matsumoto. He politely inquires the judge whether their team is allowed time for a short discussion session, the judge grants the request, as long as Un Ahm Jung finishes the dish in the required time.
Taking the leadership, Bong Joo gathers his crew to discuss a change of food material. Reasonable protest stirs up – after all, the decision is last minute and the chiefs have practiced cooking the intended dish prior to competition. Bong Joo explains, using his beef contest with Sung Chan as an example to emphasize the need to reflect the theme of globalization. Sung Chan asks what Bong Joo would do in this situation. “Spicy lobster with rice cake”, he responds, “using the spice I developed.” Placing complete trust in his brother, Sung Chan agrees. (yay super bondage)
Sung Chan boils the lobster; Bong Joo cuts up broccoli and fresh shiitake mushrooms. Sung Chan de-shells the lobster, cuts it up; Bong Joo mixes and stirs the spicy sauce. (*stomach growls*) On the other side of the table, Matsumoto cuts criss-cross patterns on a large piece of squid with extreme ease and grace, he boils it, and places the curled up squid onto the cutting board; his assistant tastes the sauce. Then Matsumoto starts to stuff food into the curled up squid, steams the squid, and cuts it into smaller rolls. In the mean time, Bong Joo starts to stir fry the vegetable and the rice cake. (*stomach growls louder*)
The first main course is done. Un Ahm Jung does the explanation first – lobster stir fry rice cake follows the idea of haute cuisine that boldly incorporates the unique Korean taste of rice cakes with the more foreign taste of lobster to accommodate different tasters. Matsumoto’s cuisine also takes into account the different tastes of the customers – squid is a common Korean food, however the stuffing can change in accordance to the eater’s liking. In this particular dish, he used Japanese plum berry, fish eggs, and burdock to enhance the taste, hence turning a Korean dish into a Japanese cuisine. It is further transformed into Japanese food as it is steamed in bamboo.
Tasting starts. Both sides received reasonable acclaim.
They get a 10 minute break where everyone relaxes their tensed bodies and get a little break to think about the next dish. Min Woo reasons that their food material – the cheapest part of beef – takes a long time to cook and may not even turn out well. Bong Joo begs to be different. He puts one assuring hand on Sung Chan’s shoulder and praises, genuinely, “No, it’s a good idea. Use the cheapest food source to create the best cuisine.” turning to Sung Chan and looking him in the eye he adds, “You are great.” (wow, what’s the big change? But I like it. 🙂 )
The second round starts. (The English translation in the background sounds so half-hearted that it’s distracting.) More mixing and stirring; cutting and chopping. Both teams are making a beef based dish. Sung Chan utilizes the base part of a cow’s leg while Matsumoto uses regular BBQ beef.
Un Ahm Jung makes a three layered rice cake and designs it as thus:
While Matsumoto makes ordinary Korean rice.
Both teams take great care into making their kimchi.
Then they both proceed into making sauce. Matsumoto makes traditional Korean sauce and surprises everyone by adding sake to it. Bong Joo is stunned and tastes his own sauce. Then remembering something, he tells Sung Chan not to use the sauce until he returns. Bong Joo runs out, causing another wave of unease to sweep across every Un Ahm Jung staff.
Matsumoto starts to add sauce to his dish. Sung Chan waits. Absolute trust right?
Then Bong Joo runs back, holding the sauce left by his father. (I like this. Now his deceased father is taking a part in saving Un Ahm Jung too.) Racing against them, Sung Chan starts to mix ingredients to the sauce. They finished before time is up. (*phew*)
Matsumoto’s turn to explain first: traditional Korean sauce paired with sake to give the beef an unique flavor, paired with rice and kimchi to reflect both traditionalism and a spark of innovation.
Un Ahm Jung’s dish is pumpkin with beef. The idea behind it is to promote the bibimbap kind of flavor where different food mix together to create an extraordinary taste, to the world. Inexpensive but infinitely imaginative.
Another nerve-racking tasting session ensues. Again, praises are give to both dishes.
And now the scoring. Matsumoto receives 10, 10, 9.5 for main course. He is obviously displeased at the last 9.5. (And those fish eyes bulge a little more when he’s not thrilled.) Un Ahm Jung receives 10, 10, 10. The distance is shortening.
The last part of the competition lands on the topic of dessert. (yay my personal favorite!) Un Ahm Jung presents a grape-looking pastry paired with a delicately brewed tea while Matsumoto brings out an equally appealing ice cream assort.
In this round, Un Ahm Jung receives the score of 10, 10, 10 while Matsumoto receives 10, 10, 9.5.
To finally determine a winner, the judges have decided to let the ambassadors seated in the back, who have tasted all the dishes, to make the final decision. A wild discussion erupts. Anxiety returned to the atmosphere almost immediately.
The final score comes out, Matsumoto receives a 9.7 and Un Ahm Jung …. a 9.9! Un Ahm Jung wins!
Jin Soo flies kisses to Sung Chan from the other side of the competition site. (lol no real kisses, flying kisses work too.)
Matsumoto regretfully hakes hands with the Un Ahm Jung chiefs before walking away in defeat. The guys celebrate, Bong Joo and Sung Chan get a loooooong brotherly hug. 🙂
Un Ahm Jung reopens and the glory of the old days returned!
Joo Hee’s dad, too ashamed of his conduct, decides to go home to make pottery.
Without the fear of losing Un Ahm Jung, Sung Chan manages to cook the shrimp dish Matsumoto wanted to eat. This time the taste is just right. Eating the delicious soup, he recalls the good old days when Chief Oh would take him everywhere. Whenever he is sad or sick, Chief Oh would always cook his favorite shrimp dish to make him feel better.
Matsumoto: But I was blinded by my ambition for cuisine that I did not learn the magic of a good cook’s ‘heart’. I refused the last shrimp dish Chief Oh made for me and left. When I returned, I brought you pain.
Bong Joo: That’s not true, Sung Chan and I have learned a great deal from this experience.
Matsumoto: If there is any need in the future, I will help Un Ahm Jung…
Sung Chan: Thanks. I’m sure my father will appreciate your good will.
Matsumoto: The lesson after refusing the shrimp soup made with Chief Oh’s love… I’ve only learned it today. I will never forget the competition with you two.
Before returning to Japan, Matsumoto reminds Sung Chan that “A one time victory does not necessarily indicate success. I will return. Till then, let’s compete again.”
To Bong Joo, Matsumoto says, “Eating raw fish was considered a strange act. Yet, I put my whole life on promoting Japanese food. Now it’s an acceptable method of dining.” (I’m glad that the brothers have found their own places on the food chain.)
Jin Soo is at home, microwaving frozen food, putting on makeup and waiting for Sung Chan to come over for their date. 😀 Sung Chan comes and hands her a bouquet of flower. “I don’t know what to bring so..” he looks away shyly and adds, “they say it’s called ‘the flower of love’ or something like that.” She sniffs the flower happily and mutters that it’s her who should give him the flowers. He asks abruptly, “did you put on make up?” She opens her mouth slightly, embarrassed. “I’ve never seen you put on make up before” Sung Chan says. Jin Soo removes a strand of hair from her face and denies, “No I don’t have make up on.” (lol how cute, she’s all blushing.) Sung Chan chuckles at Jin Soo’s nervousness. They sit down to eat.
Sung Chan praises Jin Soo for cooking a table full of food, then he exclaims after tasting something. Worried that it doesn’t might be too salty, Jin Soo tries it as well. It is too salty. She looks up at Sung Chan, slightly embarrassed, then they started to laugh. The unnatural stiffness evaporated instantly.
After dinner, Jin Soo brews tea for Sung Chan. He takes a sip and approves of the taste. He then says casually, “Your skill is good enough to get married.” “I can’t get married with just myself.” “Then how about me?” “What?” Sung Chan laughs, “Don’t look so stunned. I’m just saying.” Jin Soo puts down the cup and reproaches, “It’s important to be sincere. How can you joke about things like that?” “Then how about I sincerely suggest that I, Sung Chan, become you, Jin Soo’s fiance?” They look at each other in silence. Then Jin Soo tilts her face to scrutinize Sung Chan’s expression, uncertain if he meat it, she asks, “Are you… asking me to… marry you?” He laughs and says, “I’m just saying.” Her face drops, “Can you stop playing?” (aww isn’t she disappointed.)
Bong Joo decides to leave. To start over with a clean slate. In order to promote Korean food, he must first understand the target city’s taste. And that is his new direction to continue his dream. (Chief Oh would’ve been very pleased.) Before he leaves, he wants to gather everyone together to make biscuits.
Sung Chan happily heads off to gather material. He spots Joo Hee walking and thanks her for pointing out his feelings for Jin Soo. “Otherwise,” he says, “I would’ve missed her.” And off he goes. Watching Sung Chan’s back, Joo Hee smiles, officially putting down her feelings for him and is happy for his happiness.
They make biscuit together! From scratch of course!
Before Bong Joo leaves, he and Sung Chan went to visit Chief Oh’s grave. Kneeling before the tombstone, Sung Chan thinks to his father that the next time he comes, he will bring the daughter-in-law with him, a smile escapes him.
Bong Joo leaves. At the airport, he tells Joo Hee sorry for giving her a hard time and thanks her for all the support. Then, shyly, he asks “If.. when I’m back, you still aren’t with anyone… Can you reconsider me?” She smiles and nods, “I will always been where I was.” 😀
Sung Chan decides to leave as well. Not necessarily leave, but hit the road again to learn more life lessons. Joo Hee agrees, under one condition: Sung Chan must take care of buying produce for Un Ahm Jung. (lol good way to keep him around. It also goes back to the very first episode where Sung Chan went out with chief Oh to purchase food for Un Ahm Jung. Nice wrap.)
Sung Chan gets back on the road with Jin Soo and another adventure of finding the creative ways to cook starts.
So that marks the end of this drama. Happy ending. 🙂
Honestly, I didn’t love the drama as a whole, but its solid acting, wonderful execution, and gorgeous dishes make up for the occasional stagnant and repetitive plot, making the entire watching experience enjoyable.
Finally, thanks to my dear collaborator Sevenses for posting awesome odd-episode recaps; and to my readers for putting up with my less-than-exceptional recaps. 😛