A majority of Koreans love fried chicken, but some take it to a whole new level.
For instance, those who attend BBQ Chicken University, dedicated to the art of the deep-fried dish.
Established by the fried chicken franchise Genesis BBQ, the institute is not a real university. It is a training camp for new employees and franchisees. But it also welcomes those who would like to know more about the secret to delicious fried chicken.
BBQ Chicken University offers a one-day program, allowing participants to cook fried chicken themselves. (Genesis BBQ)
According to the institution, its one-day program instructed in Chinese or English is popular among foreigners who want hands-on experience with iconic K-food. Tourists -- mainly from Taiwan, with some from Hong Kong and Singapore -- book the program through travel agencies.
“Around 4,000 to 5,000 foreigners have participated in the program each year since 2017,” an official from the institution said.
During the program, participants first learn about fried chicken, olive oil and the BBQ brand’s global strategy. They then get to cook half a chicken and have it with pickled radish, sauce and drinks.
Those who wish to really sink their teeth into fried chicken may choose to take the “chimmelier” test run by local delivery service Baedal Minjok.
A portmanteau for chicken and sommelier, chimmelier refers to experts in tasting fried chicken.
A "chimmelier" test in 2018, arranged by Baedal Minjok, required test-takers to differentiate 12 different varieties of fried chicken. (Woowa Brothers)
Baedal Minjok arranged the chimmelier test event in 2017 and 2018, approving 119 and 47 participants as chimmeliers, respectively.
The written part of the exam tests knowledge about fried chicken. In the practical section, test-takers have to differentiate 12 different varieties of fried chicken in a blind test.
Chimmeliers, approved through the test in 2017, participated in promotional activities arranged by the business last year, such as collaborating with local brewery brand The Booth for the launch of its Chimmeli-ale beer, touted as the “perfect pairing” with fried chicken.
They also participated in publishing the “Chi-chelin Guide” -- taking a motif from the Michelin guide -- which contains details about the history of fried chicken and a list of recommended eateries.
According to Woowa Brothers, the startup that runs the Baedal Minjok app, the event was launched as fried chicken is a big part of the delivery market. Orders of fried chicken take up around 20 percent to 30 percent of total deliveries via the app.
The startup has yet to set the date for this year’s chimmelier test.
Apart from such educational programs, there are also recreational activities related to fried chicken, such as an annual festival for fried chicken and beer.
Chimaek -- sometimes written as chimak, chimac or chimek -- is a combination of the words chicken and maekju, meaning beer in Korean.
Every July, Daegu becomes a mecca for fried chicken lovers. The Daegu Chimac Festival, hosted by the Korea Chimac Industry Association since 2013, is an annual festival held in the city in North Gyeongsang Province. This year’s edition takes place from July 17 to 21 at Daegu Duryu Park.
Daegu Chimac Festival (Korea Chimac Industry Association)
The event features booths set up by different chicken businesses, offering a wide variety of fried chicken and beer. To create a festive atmosphere, popular K-pop acts are invited to perform.
More than one million people participated in the festival last year.
According to the festival’s organizers, Daegu is often referred to as the center of Korea’s chicken industry. Many of the popular fried chicken franchises in Korea started their business in the city, including Mexicana, Cheogajip Seasoned Chicken, Gyochon Chicken, Hosiki Two Chicken and Ttangttang Chicken.
By Im Eun-byel (firstname.lastname@example.org)