Three Korean chefs spread “kimchi soul” throughout world
Three Korean chefs spread “kimchi soul” throughout world
  • Chung Che-yoon
  • 승인 2013.03.04 16:15
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Photo provided by Kimchi Bus

A bus on the street may not seem like the most interesting scene, but when it came to the Kimchi Bus, it was only a matter of time before an inquisitive crowd would gather. The Kimchi Bus traveled worldwide delivering a simple question to the world: Do you know kimchi?
Ryu Si-hyeong, Kim Seong-min and Cho Seok-bum, three young chefs who majored in Culinary Science & Art at Kyung Hee University, conceived of the idea to create the Kimchi Bus, aiming to globalize Korean food and to raise worldwide awareness of Korea. Most of all, their affection towards kimchi led to the name of the project.
“Kimchi was always our first choice when choosing the food to represent Korea,” said Ryu Si-hyeong, the leader of the Kimchi Bus project. “Even though it is not as easy as bulgogi or kimbab for foreigners to eat, kimchi is the best traditional food of Korea that anyone can possibly think of.”
The Kimchi Bus took the three chefs to 27 countries and 130 cities during a 400-day excursion. They had 390 kilograms of kimchi that was used to create fabulous dishes to tempt foreigners’ appetite. Because the Kimchi Bus project focused on advertising culture rather than doing business, the chefs freely distributed the kimchi to everyone as a treat. As a result, people loved the Kimchi Bus and naturally came to love kimchi itself.
“We did not try to change the original taste of kimchi just to make it palatable to foreigners as we believed this would destroy the originality of kimchi,” Ryu said. “Surprisingly, foreigners loved to eat kimchi just as Koreans like it, no matter how spicy the flavor was.”
Despite people’s attention and affection towards the endeavor, it was never easy for the three chefs to continue the Kimchi Bus project. The bus itself had numerous problems, most of which were related to the engine. It is not too much to say that the members risked their lives because the bus’s condition was directly related to their safety.
“In Spain, thieves broke in through the window and robbed the bus while we had left for a city tour,” Ryu said. “The loss was over three million won, including laptops and cameras.”
However, those hardships were never enough to discourage their passion.
“It is true that we encountered countless difficulties and suffering during our project,” Ryu said. “Nevertheless, we had a firm idea that none of them could be an obstacle to the Kimchi Bus because we were motivated to advertise kimchi.”
The Kimchi Bus not only provided superficial ideas about kimchi, but also planted seeds of change within people’s minds, as demonstrated by a story Ryu recalled about an old man they had met in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the United States.
“We stopped in Pittsburgh to take some free time, and that was when the old man approached us with fascinated eyes and a huge grin,” Ryu said. “He told us that he originally had interest in kimchi, and we were even invited to his house. There we saw a kimchi jar that was empty to the bottom, which we filled with kimchi again before we left.”
“Later on, we received an e-mail from him, with a photo of him with the raw ingredients of kimchi – cabbage, salt and red chili powder. He said he had bought the ingredients to try making kimchi on his own. It truly meant a lot to us because it proved  we actually had an influence on people,” Ryu said.
Overseas Koreans also welcomed the Kimchi Bus. Thanks to a network of overseas Korean societies, the three chefs had the chance to serve an entire dinner course in one of the most popular restaurants in Paris.
Even though the Kimchi Bus project has officially ended, Ryu is planning to recruit new members for a second season around June. Just as they pioneered the way to advertise kimchi to the world, the second season will not only be limited to one food, but will broaden its focus to include other traditional dishes.
As the leader of the Kimchi Bus project, Ryu advises students to follow their passion.
“Success follows when one is determined to do what one likes,” Ryu said. “However, make detailed plans instead of abstract ones. Set specific goals and draw concrete strategies to achieve them.”

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