Cover Chef Mingoo Kang (Photo: Choi Joon Ho)

The chef behind Hong Kong’s Hansik Goo and Seoul’s Mingles was chosen by fellow chefs on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list for his contributions to Asia’s culinary scene

Chef Mingoo Kang has been announced as the winner of the Inedit Damm Chefs' Choice Award by Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2021. The award was revealed in the run-up to the announcement of Asia’s 50 Best list, due to take place on March 25, 2021.

Kang is known for his restaurant Mingles in Seoul, where his focus is on traditional Korean food, or hansik, creatively interpreted through his distinctive culinary background.

Kang began his career in the US, interning at the Ritz-Carlton in Florida, before working under Spanish chef Martin Berasategui and later joining Nobu in Miami and in the Bahamas. On his return to Korea, Kang delved deeper into his own culinary heritage, consulting with local food luminaries including Buddhist nun and chef Jeong Kwan, who introduced Korean temple cuisine to the world, and Cho Hee-sook who is chef of Michelin-starred Hansikgonggan and is known as the ‘Godmother of Korean cuisine’.

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Combining Korean traditions with his international expertise, Kang opened Mingles in 2014, where it quickly gained renown. In 2020, he established his first overseas restaurant, Hansik Goo––‘han’ means one, while ‘sikgoo’ is family––in Hong Kong, a move he had been contemplating for some years.

“Through the Inedit Damm Chefs’ Choice Award, Chef Mingoo Kang’s peers have shown their respect for his craftsmanship and artistry, as well as his ability to articulate Korean culinary culture on the international stage,” said William Drew, director of content at Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants. “Chef Kang reinterprets Korean cuisine in a modern context by combining contemporary techniques and local elements, striking a delicate balance between innovation and tradition.”

“I am very grateful to receive the Inedit Damm Chefs’ Choice Award,” said Kang. “This award is of special significance because it was voted for by other chefs who share my passion for excellence. While I still have a lot to learn, this award motivates my team and me to reach new heights.”

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While this award is no guarantee that Mingles––or Hansik Goo––will feature on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list when it is released later this month, Mingles first appeared on the list in 2016, entering the ranking for the first time at number 15 and earning the Highest New Entry award that year. Mingles was also named The Best Restaurant in Korea in 2016, a title it has retained for five consecutive years.

Whether Mingles makes it on to Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list this year or not, South Korea has plenty to be proud of when it comes to awards, as Chef Kang follows in the footsteps of Korean-born chef Sun Kim, whose restaurant Meta in Singapore last week received the One to Watch Award by Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2021.

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