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‘The War of Chefs’ hopes to mesmerize viewers with amazing Korean dishes

From left: TV celebrity Do Kyung-wan, comedian Lee Young-ja and trot singer Lee Chan-won pose for photos after an online press conference Monday. (tvN Story)
From left: TV celebrity Do Kyung-wan, comedian Lee Young-ja and trot singer Lee Chan-won pose for photos after an online press conference Monday. (tvN Story)
Television director Hyun Don hopes to bring back the heyday of cooking shows with “The War of Chefs.”

“After producing multiple seasons of ‘Hansik Battle,’ I worked on other food programs. But it is when I am presenting outstanding Korean dishes that I feel most comfortable,” Hyun said in an online press conference Monday.

Unlike “Hansik Battle,” which took on a tournament format, the director’s latest show has adopted a team competition format out of consideration for the participating chefs’ age and health.

“The War of Chefs” revolves around eight chefs from eight regions of Korea -- Gyeongsang, Jeolla, Chungcheong, Gyeonggi, Gangwon, Jeju Island, Seoul and North Korea -- whipping up their dishes in 30 minutes. Each episode features a different theme. After the celebrity cast -- comedian Lee Young-ja, former announcer Do Kyung-wan and trot singer Lee Chan-won -- and chefs taste the regional specialties prepared by their colleagues, a winner is chosen.

In the show’s first episode Monday, rabbit meat, an unusual ingredient in Korean cuisine, took viewers by surprise.

“Though I was confident that I have tasted countless rare dishes, I felt I was a frog in the well,” said Lee Young-ja, a known foodie, at the press conference.

Poster images of “The War of Chefs” (tvN Story)
Poster images of “The War of Chefs” (tvN Story)
“I am certain that our show is a cooking program with outstanding chefs, but the viewers can also enjoy and learn about local ingredients, which are not widely known or commonly used,” Lee added.

Over the past year, Korean broadcasters have been offering a wealth of cooking shows featuring chefs’ secret tips and dishes made with various ingredients -- some well-known, some less so.

Cooking shows such as JTBC’s “Please Take Care of My Refrigerator” and “Cooka” and tvN’s “House Cook Master Baek” have proven popular with viewers, who refer to star chefs making frequent TV appearances as “cheftainers.”

Screenshot from a highlight video for “The War of Chefs” shows a chef representing Gangwon Province preparing her dish. (tvN Story)
Screenshot from a highlight video for “The War of Chefs” shows a chef representing Gangwon Province preparing her dish. (tvN Story)
Recently, however, the trend of cooking shows has given way to travel and sports entertainment shows, a fact that director Hyun acknowledged.

“Though the trend is not smiling on cooking shows, I am still motivated to present amazing Korean foods to both local and global viewers. I hope more people can enjoy and learn about traditional Korean food through our program,” Hyun said.

“The War of Chefs” comes out Mondays at 9:50 p.m.

The cooking show is available via LG HelloVision, tvN Story and tvN’s official website.

By Lee Si-jin (sj_lee@heraldcorp.com)
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