[Herald Interview] Foodstuff found by way of documentarian’s eyes

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Lee Wook-jung, documentary producer and CEO of Mind at Play: Food Odyssey, poses in his office in Seoul during an interview with The Korea Herald on Friday (Kim Hae-yeon/ The Korea Herald)

Lee Wook-jung, documentary producer and CEO of Brain at Perform: Food items Odyssey, poses in his place of work in Seoul all through an job interview with The Korea Herald on Friday (Kim Hae-yeon/ The Korea Herald)

Conceptualizing and categorizing meals when filming a food stuff documentary series is the strategy driving documentary producer-turned CEO Lee Wook-jung’s 30-yr job. Lee pulls anything alongside one another at the conclusion of the exhibit, emphasizing the overarching topic that all meals connects.

Talking with The Korea Herald on his initial day out of quarantine subsequent a business trip to Argentina where by he went to seize the country’s distinct pizza, Lee appeared thrilled and relatively impatient to unveil his new series, “Food Chronicle.” The series is set to be launched this August on local streaming system company TVing.

Lee begun his occupation as a KBS Tv set producer in 1994 and has built a unique fashion of documentaries on the subject matter of delicacies around the globe, linking them to lifestyle and anthropology. His most effective-acknowledged operates include “Noodle Street (2008)” and “Wook’s Foods Odyssey (2014).” In 2020, he set up his individual production company, Intellect at Enjoy: Food Odyssey.

“Noodle Street,” which was filmed in 10 countries around a two-calendar year period, received documentary awards at house and overseas, which include a Peabody Awards, the broadcasting marketplace equal to a Pulitzer Prize, as well as the ABU prize. The piece opened up a new path for Korean documentary administrators functioning on the theme of food stuff, which in advance of experienced been confined to displaying Korean cuisine and common dining places in city.

Lee films the making of a trout pizza in San Carlos De Bariloche, located in Argentina's Patagonia region, in February. (Lee Wook-jung’s Instagram)

Lee films the generating of a trout pizza in San Carlos De Bariloche, found in Argentina’s Patagonia region, in February. (Lee Wook-jung’s Instagram)

“The accurate insights of my will work came out not in standardized restaurants, kitchens and eating halls. I intentionally traveled to rural villages and adopted through their own traditions, customs and cultural events to study, study, and produce the origins and cooking designs of each cuisines,” Lee mentioned, mentioning that his strategy is even more related today, given that viewers previously are acquainted with and have attempted worldwide cuisines.

“When I commenced generating documentaries, 50 percent of the viewers experienced by no means tasted a taco right before. These days, just about every person is familiar with what tacos search like and how they style. A documentary has to dig further into a dish, and find what it was in advance of it was exported and globalized,” Lee explained.

With his tutorial qualifications in English literature and cultural anthropology and culinary instruction at Le Cordon Bleu London, Lee became a jack-of-all-trades in the subject of worldwide cuisines. He has the skillsets to trace again and rapidly comprehend the fundamental society and background of a particular dish on the scene, hardly ever shying away from keeping up the camera to foodstuff on the table in locations close to the environment.

His new documentary is envisioned to present nine diverse cuisines, which are divided into a few vital types — flats, wraps and layers. 

A chef making baklava in Istanbul, Turkey, in January. (Lee Wook-jung’s Instagram)

A chef making baklava in Istanbul, Turkey, in January. (Lee Wook-jung’s Instagram)

“Any dish can in good shape into a single of the 3,” Lee claimed, describing pizza and jeon as flats, dumplings, tacos and ssam as wraps and sandwiches, cakes and sushi as layers.

Having apart the benefit, practicality and portability of each individual menu, Lee emphasizes the aesthetically pleasing visual appeal of a dish as a really important factor. “We see waves on sea shores, and geological stratums on rocks. Substantially of what we see and feel in character is utilized to cooking and planning food items.”

In the course of his new trip to Buenos Aires, Lee was invited to a spontaneous tango performance while striving out pizza. In a town with the major selection of pizzerias for each capita in the world, Lee felt the movements of tango joined to the sadness and adversities that performing class immigrants skilled in Argentina. The immigrants’ usage of pizza as their each day meal and the restrained but vivid tango dance was captured in Lee’s documentary on the spot.

Poster for “Wook’s Food Odyssey,” KBS’ global food documentary directed and produced by Lee in 2014. (KBS)

Poster for “Wook’s Food stuff Odyssey,” KBS’ global food stuff documentary directed and created by Lee in 2014. (KBS)

“Things go in an unanticipated way and that is the attraction of getting a documentary producer. You get invited to places not on your filming itinerary. That’s Okay, as very long as you have the vision to connect the dots with your concept, which for me, has been and will generally be, the origins of food items.” 

The documentary producer also had ideas on how a lot of people today see food items on their screens these days. “I often see people of my technology criticizing and devaluing mukbang. But I imagine it reveals the core of what it signifies for humans ‘to try to eat.’ We share and speak more than foods on our table, and in a digitized planet, we can do so by building these live material with world-wide neighbors.”

Besides filming documentaries, a big element of the work of Lee’s organization is doing social excellent to communities by means of food. Possessing teamed up with big corporations and dining establishments about Seoul, Lee provides lunch boxes to bad neighborhoods on a normal basis, even though also producing a sustainable atmosphere for unbiased cafe owners.

The director’s new 9-section series will be produced exclusively on Tving in mid-August.

By Kim Hae-yeon ([email protected])

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