Features 3 minutes 17 June 2022

Kwonsooksoo serves the sincerity of Korean flavors on a plate

Chef Kwon Woo-joong of two-star Kwonsooksoo promotes the beauty of Korean food to the world in a modern way. MICHELIN and Genesis take a closer look.

Kwonsooksoo, a two-star restaurant in the MICHELIN Guide Seoul 2022 is praised for its modern cuisine which showcases the beauty of Korean food and captivates gourmets around the world with its journey to reinvent traditions. Chef Kwon Woo-joong says that the elegant features of Korean cuisine are still undiscovered, and that it is his calling to promote the charm of true Korean cooking.

“At Kwonsooksoo, we present genuine Korean food to the world,
in a way that reflects contemporary Korean society.”

Kwonsooksoo respects the traditions of Korean cuisine. To emphasize the importance of the most fundamental elements that make up the Korean palate, they make their own jang (Korean mother sauces such as ganjang and gochu-jang) and kimchi. Chef Kwon expresses that it takes years to complete the dishes from scratch to the diner's table. Every chef at Kwonsooksoo brings the pivotal crafting of Korean base flavors – which could easily be dismissed as someone else's role - back into the restaurant and traditions into the center of the restaurant space.

Meanwhile, Chef Kwon Woo-joong espouses that not only food but also a wider culture is something to enjoy at a restaurant. "Korean food is well known for being popular and inexpensive. However, Korean food also has a luxurious history originating from the royal courts, which can be a window for enjoying culture. At Kwonsooksoo, I wanted to showcase the real Korean food culture. So, we reinterpreted the culture of the single-portion treat in a modern way and designed it as a traditional wooden table for just one person. Dishes and cutleries are also made in collaboration with various Korean artists. Those pieces lead diners to discover, experience and use wonderful works of art. It is my dream and happiness to help diners understand that Korean cuisine is so refined and elegant, and that Korean ceramics are very beautiful."

“The journey to success is not a sprint, it's an endurance race.
This path I took was full of countless turns, failures and constant effort.
What got me through it was finding my personal motivation to finish the race.”

Chef Kwon says that the process of putting food on the diners' table is like a relay race. "Thinking about the ingredients, getting the freshest ingredients in season, prepping them in the best condition, developing the best recipe, cooking them perfectly, plating the food in a proper dish, decorating with the final touch, serving the guests in a comfortable environment, and cleaning after people enjoy the food... All of these countless processes are no different from relay events that pass the baton. Chef and staff, staff and guests, guests and chefs communicate and deliver important messages. It's like a relay to achieve teamwork without making mistakes through many processes.”

Genesis X MICHELIN presents:

Kwonsooksoo's dishes created with the theme of sincerity

Presented by Genesis and MICHELIN Two-Star restaurant Kwonsooksoo, this gourmet journey shares the values of time and sincerity. It begins with a 500-year-old radish dumpling recipe containing the deliberation of the traditional master chef of the royal court, followed by signature dandelion noodles and braised hairtail, leading the diner to discover new peaks of elegance throughout.

Kwonsooksoo's radish dumpling
Dumpling, yukhoe, hot pot rice, and kimchi are Kwon’s favorite Korean dishes. He has enjoyed going to many restaurants since childhood to taste and study Korean food.

Radish dumplings served at Kwonsooksoo are a modern dish based on food from the noble family that dates back 500 years ago. The background story of radish dumplings is that it is prepared with love for elderly parents who are unable to chew well due to old age, which demonstrates further the taste of foods made with sincerity. Chef Kwon explains that it is his duty to continue cooking such dishes with precious stories and sentiments.

Kwonsooksoo’s signature dandelion noodles
Chef Kwon Woo-joong says he grew up eating countless different namul since he was very young. (Namul refers to seasoned herbal dishes made of edible grass or leaves.) Among numerous namul varieties, his top pick is with white dandelion leaves, which his mother used to make in spring. His mother's raw seasoned vegetables, which resonates in his mind deeply through time, is a representative dish that beautifully unravels the bitter taste.

"I think the bitter taste is the most difficult aspect of Korean cuisine to handle and enjoy, but it's also the most attractive flavor. Since it is not easy for modern people to experience ‘bitterness’ in natural ingredients, I borrowed my mother's skills and made this dish. So, this dish is a kind of collaboration between my mother and me," he shares. Chef Kwon recreates his mother's homemade taste with a modern approach, using fresh fish from the morning market, seasoned dandelion leaves and noodles.

Braised hairtail full of delicacies, by Kwonsooksoo
Kwonsooksoo's braised hairtail has special ingredients, including Korean beef sirloin, black pork, neungi-mushrooms and kkachi-mushrooms. Because of this, at first glance, the simple name braised hairtail seems insufficient to express this luxurious medley.

Chef Kwon explains it this way: "Hairtail has a very soft texture and clean taste, and it is a very attractive ingredient. However, the recipe for hairtail in Korean food is very one-size-fits-all. I developed this dish because I wanted to show various possibilities of hairtail. So, I used all the ingredients of the sea, the land and the forest. Soft hairtail meat blends in with Korean beef sirloin, wild mushrooms from the Korean forest, mugwort and black pork."

“In a relay race, you never run alone.
We are all moving forward together
on the long journey to define modern Korean cuisine.

Kwonsooksoo will continue to pursue pure Korean cooking
that connects tradition and modernity.”

Chef Kwon Woo-joong is proud that Kwonsooksoo has played a role in preserving and modernizing the charm of Korean food. Since the beginning, it was important for Kwonsooksoo to show the color of a chef’s character, but now it aims to cultivate Korean chefs who know how to envision and execute Korean cuisine properly, from the basics to modern versions. Kwonsooksoo, which has gone through many changes and developments so far, is still enthusiastically shaping its aspirations for the future.

He concludes, "What is a ‘dining experience’? I don't think it's just sitting at a table and eating some food. Experiencing the roots of traditional Korean culture is the future of Kwonsooksoo that I’ve drawn up. It may not always be easy to make that dream happen, but I will keep striving to create a space where people can experience new things about Korean culture."


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