Outside the window rain is drizzling. Inside the studio, delicious smells waft through the air. He sings softly to himself as he chops up some vegetables.
Who is he? It’s 2AM‘s Changmin!
The speed with which he cuts the vegetables is quick. His fingers expertly slice stalks of celery in the blink of an eye. 2AM’s Changmin has turned into a chef.
Featured on Olive Channel’s cooking program “Food Essay”, he appeared as comfortable as if he had been in his own kitchen back home. We heard rumors that he “cooked a bit,” but no one expected he’d be this good.
“It hasn’t been that long since I’ve picked up cooking as a hobby,” Changmin said. “Maybe a year? I just love to cook in general. Mothers cook for their families but I cook for myself,” he laughed.
Changmin revealed that he took regular recipes and tweaked them when he was on a diet. “The taste was the same, but I was losing weight. I started to make some for the other members [of 2AM], as well as the staff. It just naturally became a hobby after that,” he added.
He is already well-known for his cooking skills among his fans. He appeared as a guest to cook on MBC’s “We Got Married,” and he posted several pictures of his completed works on his Twitter. Recently, he created his very own handmade “Changmin Ice Cream”, and the pictures were uploaded on Twitter through 2AM’s other members. Fellow member Seulong admitted that if he could bring a friend with him on vacation, he would bring Changmin. (Probably to mooch off of his cooking!)
“The youngest, Jin Woon, is my biggest fan. Seulong uses me the most, because if you compliment me, I’ll make anything for you.” Even when he cooks ramen, he thinks of how he can get the most nutrition out of it. He adds vegetables and chicken breast, along with other healthy ingredients that add not only flavor but vitamins and minerals. Only real chefs can take ordinary everyday ingredients from the fridge and transform them into something extraordinary.
“Since I have such a huge interest in cooking, it just seemed natural to go on a cooking program. Fans called me ‘Changlex’ after (Clazziquai‘s) Alex Hyung. Well, our bodies are the same for one,” Changmin chuckled, “now I just have to match up to his cooking skills.”
The episode of Changmin’s “Food Essay” focuses on a meal that can be eaten at two in the morning without feeling guilty. The episode features how Changmin designed a low calorie diet in four weeks and how to adjust recipes to fit a low calorie guideline. Fans are anticipating the behind-the-scenes story of his “Diet Know How” as well.
“I want to make foods that are easy and healthy to make, so that other people can enjoy them as well. I want people to think, ‘Well 2AM’s Changmin was successful at it, so if I follow in his foosteps, I’ll be successful too.’ I don’t like recipes that say, ‘Take 0.1g of this’ or ‘A teaspoon of that’. After all, I am a 26-year-old idol. I don’t like those strict recipes.”
Although he said that it hasn’t been long since he took up cooking as a hobby, his experience with cooking goes way back. When Changmin was a young boy, his mother always had fresh ingredients to cook with so that she could cook home-made food.
“Typically mothers prepare food for their children beforehand so that when they’re not home, the children have something to eat. My mother claimed that food made beforehand didn’t taste good, so she would leave the ingredients out for me. If she left meat thawed in the refrigerator, I would take it out and cook it in a pan or fry it. That’s how I learned the flavors. Like the difference between regular cooking oil and canola oil, or how if ketchup was added to something, it made something taste better. If I cook something and it doesn’t taste good, I add a little bit of this and that until it meets my taste buds’ standards.”
Changmin’s cooking is very similar to his mother’s. His mother had to cook dinner for 8 picky family members every night. Even foods that were difficult to prepare at home could be managed by his mother.
“We even cooked pizza and cream cakes in my house. It was a quiet neighborhood, but the oven and stove were always busy. My hometown is Busan, and there was only one pizza franchise in all of Busan. I ate the pizza that my mother made me for at home. She even cooked things like jja jang myeon (black bean paste noodles) and cake for us, foods that are normally eaten out in restaurants.”
Out of all the foods that his mother cooked for him, Changmin’s favorite is her spaghetti. He remembers cans of sweet potato sauce and spaghetti noodles. Wow, that sounds tasty! The gourmet taste stuck with him since a young age. His parents still drink pumpkin and sweet potato soup every morning. Since he moved away for college, he obtained the recipes and had to practice for a long time to become the chef that he is today.
Changmin has lately taken an interest in Western foods as well. Even when he was busy collaborating with 8eight‘s Lee Hyun and working with 2AM in Japan, he still attended cooking classes and even managed to pass the written portion of the exam.
“I really wanted to get certified in cooking, which is why I enrolled in a cooking class. To ensure that I’d pass the written test in one go, I took supplementary classes too. I also looked through the cookbook that my fans bought for me. After passing the written test, I was going to take the actual cooking test but because 2AM was completing activites in foreign countries, I haven’t found time. When time permits, I’m going to take the test.”
Changmin isn’t the only celebrity interested in making food. SNSD‘s Yoona asks him for recipes all the time, and Kara‘s Nicole also enrolled in some cooking classes. Changmin has numerous presents that are related to cooking. His latest present includes a German cooking set. There probably aren’t any other idols who receive German knives from their fans.
“When fans asked me what I wanted for my birthday, my manager and I had to think for a second. ‘Hm, smart oven? No, that’s too expensive.’ It turns out that cooking equipment can cost a lot.” He’s talented, can cook, and has a kind heart.
“I go to Hong Suk Chun and Jung Jun Ha Hyungs’ restaurant a lot, and I hope to someday have a restaurant in my name,” he said while smiling.
He not only receives praise for his heart melting voice, but also for his concern for health and well-being. Out of all of 2AM’s members, Changmin is the one who takes care of himself the most.
“You’ll know it when you see my before pictures,” Changmin said. “When I was born, I was 4.5kg heavier than the average baby! When I was at my heaviest during college, I reached up to 104kg. I wanted to wear cool clothes but I couldn’t order them, and during the summer, I would get rashes on my armpits. I was scared to go out in front of people, but really, I had no self esteem. I hated it then. That’s when I decided to get motivated. I was determined to successfully lose the weight.”
Before he debuted, he ate only two blocks of tofu in one day and in three weeks, lost 18kg in order to attend college. He gradually began to think of better ways to incorporate food into his diet and also started to exercise. In five years, he lost 30kg, and was able to turn his body into a lean muscle machine. (I mean, look at those chocolate abs now. Can you believe it?) It seems easy, but maintaining a healthy diet and exercising on a regular basis is really no easy task.
“After I lost weight, I began to enjoy the things in life that I couldn’t enjoy before. I was comfortable in my skin and in my new clothes. I wasn’t scared of people looking at me in a weird way. Most importantly, I gained my self-esteem. Everytime I wanted to give up, I’d think of the things that I would gain once I lost the weight. I know how hard it is to lose weight. You have to think, ‘I know how to do this’ or ‘If I did it this way, I could succeed.’
“There isn’t just one way to do a diet. There isn’t a solution that fits everybody. The most important thing is to find a method that works for you. Rather than having a body that’s good to look at, it’s more important to have a body that’s healthy.
“One year is 365 days. We can’t always pack our own home made lunches everyday. I can’t do it, neither can the group members. This doesn’t apply to just celebrities but also to regular people too. We don’t move around enough to compensate for the food that we take in. It’s important that we make food that can account for our health.”
Changmin is an idol star, but he is also a cooking idol, as some fans have nicknamed him. There’s another attractive side to him separate from the one that appears on stage when performing. Although he forgets about his stress and fatigue through cooking, he revealed that he liked singing more than anything and went back into the kitchen to cook. Ah, this time it’s a cream cake that he wishes to someday make for his girlfriend. What a lucky gal she will be!