It’s safe to say the world is obsessed with South Korean culture, from its music (who hasn’t heard of BTS?) and television dramas to the recent historic performance of its critically-acclaimed movie Parasite at the Oscars and Bafta Awards.
It’s also been making waves in the culinary world, most recently with South Korean chef Cho Hee-sook—chef-owner of Hansikgonggan in Seoul—being honoured with the Asia’s Best Female Chef 2020 title. The award is part of the annual Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants’ celebration that recognises women who have risen to the top of the gastronomic world.
“The Best Female Chef award celebrates female chefs whose dedication, skills and creativity set new standards in gastronomic excellence,” shares William Drew, director of content at Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants. He adds: "Cho Hee-sook epitomises the spirit of this award with her lifelong commitment to advancing Korean cuisine through training, education and mentorship."
It is indeed Cho's lifelong mission to promote Korean cuisine that resonates most powerfully with her peers. Affectionally know as the Godmother of Korean cuisine, she has made sure that the country’s culinary traditions and recipes are passed on to future generations by mentoring chefs.
Renowned chef Mingoo Kang of Mingles restaurant, one of her former protégés, describes Cho as one of her most influential mentors, “who spent her life developing Korean cuisine”.
At her Michelin-starred establishment, Hansikgonggan, Cho specialises in royal court cuisine and her eight-course menu comprises time-honoured dishes once served as far back as the Joseon dynasty (1392 to 1897).