• Kuyong Park, the Executive Chef at Cafe great Ontario and its professional roots in Yongsan Garrison

    YGS: Which years did you work at Dragon Hill Lodge?
    KYP: From 2001 to 2007

    YGS: What was your role in there?
    KYP: I worked at the Restaurant Green Street of DHL as Cook.

    YGS: When you joined in there were you interested in learning how to cook American dishes?
    KYP: I was always interested in learning how to cook, I tried all my best to learn how to cook American dishes, so I could experience all the shifts of the kitchen; breakfast (3years), lunch (1years) and dinner (3years).

    YGS: Which was the reason you decided to work for DHL and not outside base in a Korean restaurant?
    KYP: In DHL I could work in an American culture environment; this means I could have more exposure to English too. I could learn advanced kitchen system and management by working for an American Hotel such as DHL. I could work in a sensible working hour’s environment based on performance not on hours spent at work. This taught me to be efficient and have full concentration when It was my work time.

    YGS: How much do you think working in a Hotel on base targeting military western people (not only Americans but also from the countries that are part of the UN command helped you on your professional carrier?
    KYP: I experienced western culture helping me understanding it. I could also realize about the disadvantages of Korean culture and how I can improve those by adapting what’s better from western culture. In my case working at DHL helped me opening the doors in USA. I got a great and helpful recommendation from DHL for jobs at Ritz Carlton and Shangri-La Hotels.

    YGS: What do you think made your years of experience in DHL different from any other chef like you working in Korea outside Base?
    KYP: Apart from the previously mentioned I usually practiced English after my shift, that time I sat on a sofa in the hotel lobby. Sometime I would meet the GM of DHL at the lobby, he would say ‘hello’ to me and would asked ‘what are you doing here?’ I would answer ‘I am just practicing my English and doing my university homework as usual’. And then He would give me a thumbs-up sign saying ‘good job, Keep going’ I kept on going like this during all my 6.5 years working at DHL. I would not have been able to have learned this much and combined work and studies if I would have worked outside base.
    I finished 4 years of university and 2 years of graduate school while working as a cook and learning the first steps that would take me to where I am now.

    (Interview with Executive Chef Ku Yong Park @ku-yong-pak on 7th May 2017) @timmitchell

  • “Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”
    It’s the definition for the three Michelin starred dining establishments – in French “Une des meilleures tables, vaut le voyage.” For the hierarchy of two stars, it is “Excellent cooking, worth a detour,” and for the one star, “A very good restaurant in its category.”
    In my youth years of 40s, while I was pursuing to get architectural/engineering design services and evaluation of the construction biddings for Korean contractors in the Middle East countries, it was a good chance for me to nominate myself as a gourmet. And tasting fine food at different countries was, is, one of my favorite hobbies. And I had to pay for the expensive hobby some exorbitant prices in less than an hour of dining pleasure in the Middle Eastern countries particularly in London, Rome and Paris.
    Among the gourmets of the Londoners the name of Araki sushi bar in the city became famous for its good sushi since late 2014. It’s a small bar that had only 9 tables. It was well known because of the price of the Japanese food was so expensive that one full course meal cost 300 pounds ($376) excluding drinks, yet reservation must be made at least 3 weeks ahead. The owner Chef Araki explains that he gets the finest ingredients from all over the world – cuttlefish from Africa, Bluefin tuna from Ireland or Portugal, white truffle from Italy, so on. You have heard of the chef’s maxim that “fine food originates from good ingredients” yet you don’t want to spend 300 pounds just for a sushi lunch but there apparently are a lot of gourmets who would spend any amount for a good food.
    The most expensive restaurant on earth is known “Sublimotion” located at Sant Josep de sa Talaia, Ibiza, Spain, run by Michelin 2-star Chef Paco Roncero who utilizes molecular gastronomy in cooking. In 2014, Sublimotion was awarded the prize for the Best Innovation Food & Beverage. As of 2015, the restaurant on haute cuisine is considered the most expensive in the world with an average price at $2,000 per person. The course consists of 20 food tasting entrees and can seat only a maximum of 12 patrons. The waitresses wearing the uniform similar to that of the stewardess serve you, according to the December 2015 issue of Japanese Newsweek.
    When Chef Roncero had boasted that his restaurant serves the most delicious and expensive foods in the world, the French Chef Paul Pairet of the Ultraviolet in Shanghai, China, refuted that it’s Ultraviolet, which charges $600 per serving, yet the taste of his cookeries exceeds the Roncero’s. The restaurant’s unique concept is based on Pairet’s theory of “psycho-taste,” or the psychology and emotions associated with food, and Pairet says “Food is ultimately about emotion, and emotion goes beyond taste.”
    Now let’s look at the dining tables in Yongsan Garrison, Seoul. The U.S. Military personnel in Korea and their invited guests would find the recipes in the continental American culinary culture at “Greenstreet” or “Oasis” dining establishments at the Dragon Hill Lodge in the South Post at about the equal rating of the two Michelin stars “worth a detour,” if not the three starred “Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey to Yongsan Garrison.” The American steak is soft and so tasty that one would feel like eating at the Peter Luger Steak House in Brooklyn, New York City.
    The Dragon Hill Lodge fortunately will remain intact after Yongsan Garrison is relocated into Camp Humphreys in late 2018. The TAE had been partially involved in its early stage of the feasibility and site selection studies for the construction of a hotel for the U.S. Armed Forces personnel in down town Seoul.
    Before the Dragon Hill was built, the U.S. Military had leased two existing Korean hotels – Naeja Hotel located near Gwangwhamun in Naeja-dong and Garden Hotel in Mapo-gu, Seoul. TAE also provided some architectural/engineering services for fire prevention, emergency escape planning and the interior designs for the hotels in 1970s.
    I’m still trying to digest the Chef Pairet’s theory, “Food is about emotion which goes beyond taste.” Really?

    By Nam Sang-so, Seoul, January 1st on the Rooster Year of the Moon calendar

    • The Naija Hotel Armed Forces Recreation Center (AFRC) was originally built by the Japanese during the annexation of Korea (1910-1945). These facilities were occupied by United States Overseas Mission (USOM) personnel during the reconstruction of South Korea after the Korean War (1950-1953). And, later used by the United States Forces Korea (USFK) as officer billets until 1972. The rooms in the three buildings in this complex were used for USFK personnel as a rest and recuperation facility for the troops stationed in the remote regions of the ROK while on leave. This was not a leased facility. There was another hotel also named Naija that was a commercial hotel and located not far from the Naija Hotel AFRC in Naija-dong. The Naija AFRC had 79 rooms as well as a dining room and lounge. This was a popular Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) facility from 1972 until 1990. The Dragon Hill Lodge opened in 1990 and basically replaced the Naija AFRC as the focal point for R&R for the military. Seoul city started a street widening of the boulevard beside the Naija AFRC and this property was returned to the ROKG.

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