The Cooking Frenzy of Korea: Chefs to Celebrities


South Korea has been overcome by a new trend recently: the cooking frenzy. Cooking is the big thing right now; it’s in dramas, variety shows, everyday life – everywhere. As a result, chefs have become celebrities and now show up on the Korean television screen more often than some other celebrities. Here is a simple introduction to some of the most famous.

Baek Jong Won


When you ask Koreans to name one chef, my bet is that the majority will state Baek Jong Won. This chef was already publicly known before for his chain of successful restaurants and his marriage to actress So Yoo Jin (“Pretty Man,” “Happy Ending,” “Delicious Proposal“). His popularity soared when he recently joined the cast of “My Little Television.” Since then, he has gained countless fans and even started his own show, teaching cooking to stars such as Kim Gu Ra, Yoon Sang, Son Ho Joon, and Park Jung Chul. B1A4‘s Baro will be joining soon as a new member. Baek Jong Won’s recipes are simple, easy to follow, and absolutely delicious. Plus, when he first aired on TV, he was nicknamed “broadcasting genius” by his viewers for how naturally funny and entertaining he was.

Sam Kim


Sam Kim is famous for being the role model for the iconic charismatic, scary, yet sexy chef characters for K-dramas. He is therefore said to be the origin of “Yes, Chef!” often used with said characters. Sam Kim revealed recently in “Happy Together” that Lee Sun Kyun‘s role as a chef in “Pasta” was based off of him. In real life, Sam Kim is the representative star chef for Western food in Korea. He gained his initial popularity as a panel chef in “Please Take Care of my Refrigerator.”

Choi Hyun Seok


Choi Hyuk Seok gained his initial popularity along with Sam Kim as a panel chef in “Please Take Care of My Refrigerator,” but he gained most of his popularity for his huh-sae – exaggerative, overconfident movements and statements that are obviously overstated and overdone to be entertaining, funny, or excessively cool looking. For the best explanation and example of huh-sae, please observe the way he adds salt to his cooking in the video below. Right now, he’s a variety show star and has been featured on countless shows, including “Happy Together,” “Healing Camp,” and “Roommate.” He’s even featured in this “Shake It” promotional video with SISTAR.

Lee Yeon Bok


The ultimate show that produces chef celebrities – “Please Take Care of my Refrigerator” – is where Lee Yeon Bok also gained his immense popularity that led him to be on other shows such as “Healing Camp.” If Sam Kim is the representative star chef for Western food, then Lee Yeon Bok is the representative star chef for Chinese food. He has won the hearts of many with his easy going personality, old-style dancing skills, and delicious recipes perfected from years and years of hardships, obstacles, and perseverance. Plus, his knife skills are exceptional even for a star chef.

Do not underestimate the popularity of these chefs; even researching them just now for this article, I ran into shows I’ve never heard of where they are panelists, judges, and chefs. You will eventually run into these faces while you’re watching popular Korean shows – cooking and non-cooking alike – and when you do, be prepared for strange personalities, good laughs, and even better food.