Tuesday has been a long day. But exciting!
Getting up at 5 am to relate about the previous day events can be hard on the system but let me tell you, very worthwhile.
By 7:oo am I was ready for another sauna experience and like the day before, a westerner in a Korean sauna can be intimidating. They automatically feel that you are invading their sanctity and they cannot behave as normal male Koreans because they are too polite.
So by 8:15 I was downstairs in the lobby after a medium size breakfast thinking that a shuttle bus would be available to take me to the DCC (Daejeon Convention Centre). I found out quite quickly that the shuttle had already left at 5;30 am with the chef contestants that were supposed to cook and present today. So the cab it was and I arrived by 8:30 at the Convention Centre. Taxi fares in Korea are cheap. Imagine taking a cab from Vines to the Convention Centre for only $5.00. Not too shabby!
Todays schedule for the actual contestants was rather demanding. They first had to get up by 4:30 and arrive to the Centre by 5:30am, had to prep their food and then have it displayed properly to be judged. There were three category classes today. The first “R” was the “Field and Forest” Hot Kitchen presented by WACS selected country teams; category “D” was the Gourmet Challenge presented by WACS Junior members, and finally, presented by the Korean Chef’s Association, there was Category A,B,C.; wedding cake, sugar showpiece, Royal Court Korean Dinner, One Festive/Buffet Platter; Finger Foods/Tapas (Wow, some of them were absolutely gorgeous to view). Quite a lot to organize and everything had to be timed perfectly.The judges were selected according to their expertise and it took them most of the day to tabulate their points and choose a daily winner. Tomorrow there will be another round with a final winner declared on Thursday.
And to give the contestants a sense of accomplishment, they had to cook a fair number of dishes as the public was invited to attend, inspect and sample the dishes for a ticket fee. And let me tell you that Koreans love their food. As one Korean chef told me, many nasty arguments are resolved over good food. From 16 year olds to 90 year grandmas, they were all there checking out the superb displays snapping pictures from smart phones to the highest digal cameras available. I saw a 80+ woman directing her grandson to take the pictures she wanted, saying yes to some and definetly no to others. Maybe she was an “undercover” judge. She certainly acted that way. And the line ups for tickets were incredible. They sold out the determined seats in about 1 hour as there were certainly over 200 covers to sell. The chefs would have to plate the dish, then runners would serve their perspective tables.
This was an all day affair. Canada Junior Team(composed of young chefs under the auspice of Vancouver Community College and under the leadership of JC Felicella, team manager of the Junior Culinary Team Canada) was keeping up with appeareances and delivering a grand spectacle. I discreetly spoke to a judge who informed me that many judges were very impressed with Team Canada however they would have to wait for Round Two before declaring a winner. Go, Canada, Go!
At about 3 pm, I knew it was time to take a well deserved break and therefore headed back to my hotel for a quick shower (those rooms get warm fast) and to dress up for our welcome reception.
The evening was a meet and greet affair first with speeches from WACS president Gissur Gudmundsson, the Vice-Mayor of Daejeon and the representative of Korea Chefs Association. We then headed off to the reception room where delicious korean dishes were displayed and dived in very quickly by all. After a day like today, there were a lot of hungry chefs and very few had any chance of eating all day. And yes there were 2 wines offered besides a complimentary full bar: Dourthe Bordeaux Rouge and a Montgras Sauvignon Blanc, nothing extraordinary but respectful. Korea is still in its infancy when it comes to a wine culture. Speaking with a few chefs who now reside in Seoul and teach at different culinary acadamies, they all say that the potential is there but it will take time. A bit like where China is now.
Perhaps the best part of the evening was the band on stage, composed of 7 young yet very talented Koreans playing to the tunes of New Oreleans Jazz, Buddy Holly and even Paul Anka. The room was rocking, myself included. Hey you just cannot stop snapping, taping and shaking when you hear tunes like “All the Saints go marching in” or not being moved by the lead singer with the song “Diana”.
With the evening completed, we all headed back to our respected hotels for we all knew that Wednesday would be another engaging day.