...when the screen takes over...

Kang’s Kitchen, Second Episode (Part 1)

The grand opening of Kang’s Kitchen has gone well in general. Is it time to expand the menu?

The Opening Day continues…

Despite fear, nerves, self-doubt, lack of confidence, and anxiety, the ‘Journey’ squad finally opens their business. As their first order has been completed, they move on to the remaining orders.

However… Ji-Won feels something is off. There is an omurice missing.

The case of the missing ‘special’ omurice

The fourth table family had ordered an omurice and asked for the sauce to ‘be put on one side’ (한쪽으로). When he had taken the order, Ji-Won had clarified the request as ‘not mixing the sauce with the omurice’ (섞이지 않게). Jiwon told the kitchen about the ‘special’ order and repeated the requirements: ‘put the sauce on one side’ and ‘do not mix the sauce with the omurice’.

‘Put the sauce on the side…’

Jae-Hyeon thought the ‘special’ order had meant ‘put the sauce on one side of the plate’ instead of pouring it on top of the omurice like he always does. He handed the ‘special’ omurice to the hall, saying that he had ‘put the sauce on the side’. However, his words were lost amidst the noisy chatters of the kitchen that Ji-Won didn’t register them.

Min-Ho took the supposedly ‘special’ omurice and asked if it was for the second table. Ji-Won took a look at it, deemed it ‘normal’, and agreed that it should go to the second table.

That’s how the ‘special’ omurice goes missing.

Ji-Won questions the kitchen about the missing ‘special’ omurice. Jae-Hyeon insists he had handed one with the sauce ‘put on one side’ (of the plate). Ji-Won seems to remember vaguely. They realise there has been a miscommunication.

They decide on making another omurice, this time with the sauce served separately on different plate as is prefered by the fourth table family when Ji-Won confirms the arrangement (‘소스을 따로 드릴까요?’). The fourth table family finally gets their ‘special’ omurice. Peace returns.

‘Special’ Omurice, with the sauce on the side, on seperate bowl.

Ji-Won goes to the kitchen and pays Ho-Dong and Jae-Hyeon compliment: the omurice is so good, nothing is left on the plate unlike the supersized donkatsu. The plates come back almost squeky clean.

What’s the secret to Kang’s Kitchen’s omurice’s popularity? What makes the omelette so special? I’ll probably do a separate post on their omurice. In short, Chef Baek Jong-Won had taught them a couple of tricks.

Now that the four tables’ orders are done and the customers are enjoying the food, the squad has room to breathe a little. However, it still spells work for one man, Lee Soo-Geun the slave-worker-cum-comedian. He picks up rubbish and litters from the kitchen floor, reminding the others to do the same whenever they get free time. He washes the dishes, keeps the sink clean, reminds chef Kang to write whatever needs buying or restocking. He and Jae-Hyeon agree that washing dishes is the most demanding work.

Soo-Geun’s words prompt Ji-Won to ask for a change, “switch place with me tomorrow, Hyung!” Soo-Geun appreciates the offer. “Do come and work here,” Soo-Geun says, “and shall I show you how I would do Hall work?”

 

Soo-Geun escapes from the kitchen even though Ho-Dong maintains that Soo-Geun can’t leave. In the Hall, we see him effortlessly engaging with the customers. He offers to close the door, commenting on the cold weather on Jeju Island. Ji-Won questions why he should talk with their customers while they are enjoying their meal. “Talk while eating so you can eat more,” he says.

The Case of Mum’s Mistaken Identity?

When a little girl of the first table calls the woman next to her ‘mum’ (while real mum is sitting in front of her) and the woman balks (“I am not your mum!”), Soo-Geun picks up the cue and throws a punchline. “Why is anyone your mum? Do you dislike mum that much?” Everyone laughs. No one seems to mind Soo-Geun talking a lot. “It’s fun,” a customer says.

But, reality bites. There is so much to do in the kitchen. Soo-Geun returns to the kitchen, back to washing dishes with Jae-Hyeon.

The work in The Hall is no small matter either. Ji-Won and Min-Ho are also as busy as ever. They take care of the customers’ small and big requests: making drinks, making and correcting order mistakes, and accomodating requests for more donkatsu sauce. Even so, being the faces of Kang’s Kitchen, they still keep on smiling.

The Faces of Kang’s Kitchen

Amidst hectic operation, their coffee corner also runs smooth. Whether making coffee, mixing it with milk and cream, doing latte art, or making iced Americano, they are up for any orders. They have to tend the cash register as well. One by one, the first batch of customers pay and leave. Ji-Won asks whether they are satisfied with the food and drinks, and asks them to come back before their ‘business’ closes. This also means they have to clear the tables; clean the cutlery, cups, and plates; and prepare the tables for the next customers. However much they wish they can catch a break, the service cycle shall be on repeat until business is closed.

 

 

New customer arrives. A woman, alone, takes the first table. She orders a Kang-Ho-Dong-katsu. Chef Kang worries that the size and portion of the donkatsu may be too much for one person. When the next customer comes, a man sitting at the second table alone, the woman proposes that they join table and order to have one Kang-Ho-Dong-katsu for two.

‘Let’s join our order!’

Ji-Won inquires if they are friends. The woman explains they just met today and became friends while waiting outside, to Ji-Won and Min-Ho’s amazement. “Do enjoy the meal together, please!” Ji-Won sounds too eager to get them together, making the customers visibly awkward. “Wow. Is this fate?” Min-Ho adds.

The next customers, a family with a baby on the father’s belly wrap, take the fourth table. Ji-Won hands them the menu and gives warning advice on the size of kang-ho-dong-katsu. “It would be enough for 10 of you…,” the chef would put it. They go for one kang-ho-dong-katsu.

 

In the kitchen, Ho-Dong gets anxious for orders aren’t coming in despite new customers arriving. Soo-Geun points out that the Hall has mentioned an order for one Kang-Ho-Dong-katsu. Ji-Won corroborates but Ho-Dong asks him to do it properly by putting the order on the order board, not just by telling them in passing. Ji-Won obliges, sticking it on the board.

Ho-Dong happily cooks another donkatsu, thanking it for turning out ‘cool’. Soo-Geun applauds the nice smell that permeates the kitchen. Jae-Hyeon comments that because the sheet of meat is so thin, it gets cooked well in short time. Ho-Dong remarks on the size, noting that this must be the work of Min-Ho, who scored the longest spread, 52 cm, of meat sheet last night. It fills up the entire serving plate.

The record breaking donkatsu goes to the first table’s two new friends. They are shocked by the size but find it delicious and gentle. Ji-Won tells them to simply ask if they need more sauce.

The eighth arrival is two people assigned to the second table. Upon warning of the size, they ask if the left-over donkatsu can be packed when they leave.

 

The fourth table family gets a donkatsu that resembles stingray (named by the Chef ‘Jeju Island stingray donkatsu’), which draws their laughter. After Min-Ho brings their drink, the wife informs the husband, who doesn’t notice the server, that it’s Min-Ho. The husband is taken aback. “That is THE Song-finger?” He exclaims (he does watch ‘New Journey To The West’!) but the wife doesn’t get the reference.

Yes, I am THE Song-Finger!

The second table pair get their donkatsu and confirm that its portion should be enough for, perhaps, 3 to 4 people.

Kang’s Kitchen’s Good Points

What are the advantages and benefits of going to Kang’s Kitchen?

Baby-sitting service

Lee Soo-Geun The Baby-sitter

Soo-Geun approaches the family with the baby, greeting the baby girl. He takes the baby to let the father eats comfortably, jokingly asks them to pay another $40 for baby-sitting.

He brings the baby to meet the rest of the Hall staff. Ji-Won wonders whether there is anything they can feed the baby and looks around. “Let’s give her Ice Americano,” Soo-Geun says. Everyone laughs.

Packing leftover food

The fourth table family asks to have the leftover packed (he has heard that they provide such service as well). Min-Ho brings the leftover to the hall station, where everyone has gathered (Ho-Dong and Jae-Hyeon are now free from the kitchen).

Since it is the first leftover to be packed, they wonder how to pack it. Jae-Hyeon comes up with the idea to cut the leftover into smaller uniform chunks. Ho-Dong immediately (automatically) asks for Soo-Geun. Ji-Won tells him to let Soo-Geun have a break. Ho-Dong cuts the leftover donkatsu and put it in a box. Jae-Hyeon packs some sauce and side dish as well. Ji-Won keeps it for the customers.

Excellent Food Quality Assurance

Quality Controlling. ‘Perfect!’

Basically, Ho-Dong cooks a small sample of meat and eats it with Jae-Hyeon. Let’s just say they do it to make sure the food is good.

This last batch customers soon finish their meals. The baby’s family settle the bill. Soo-Geun asks if the baby Ah-Yoon can give him a wink (not you, Dad, the baby!). The two new friends also leave. The man asks if this will be shown on TV. Ji-Won assures him that it will. As the last pair of customers is leaving, all the staff go out and give them a huge send-off. Ji-Won asks them to try his Vienna Coffee on their next visit. Ho-Dong asks them to come back for tea. Their first day of business comes to a close.

Ho-Dong sits quietly at a corner in the kitchen. Soo-Geun sits on a chair by the register. Jae-Hyeon and Min-Ho sit on the Hall floor. Ji-Won pulls chairs together to lay down on them and rest. For a moment, they enjoy the freedom from hard work before wrapping up the kitchen and going home.

 

 

On the way home, while the members are listening in silence in the car —the weight of the day and what tomorrow brings clearly rest on their shoulder— Ho-Dong reflects on what they’re doing now (‘Kang’s Kitchen’). He had got nervous and fallen into stupor at the beginning. But then he thought ‘I don’t know and I don’t care… let’s just do this…’

A flashback to pre-shooting meeting with the production crew shows Ho-Dong feeling burdened by the show concept, which requires him to cook, yet excited while choosing the menu, recalling his favourite food, asking his mum for the secret of her ‘Japchae’. At the pre-shooting meeting with the rest of the casts, he enthusiastically showed them his first ever cooking effort with noodles: kimchi stew with noodles, galbitang with noodles (Ho-Dong loves noodles). He also cooked for his family’s ChooSeok celebration back home in Masan.

Then Ho-Dong randomly changes the subject: he wants to eat 방어 (bang-eo) for the winter. It takes awhile for Soo-Geun (and yours truly) to get what he means: the jack fish Japanese Amberjack (Seriola quinqueradiata). Soo-Geun notes the problem with the name. Ho-Dong agrees since in English, 방어 means defence or fence. They both chuckle.

“Let’s laugh! All of us!” Kang Ho-Dong decides. Soo-Geun tells them that today, they’ve spent $380 in ingredients and stuff yet only sold $220 worth of meal. The sad news gives them a smile. Soo-Geun then imagines how their show perhaps would look like, how the captions would read (‘the hammer is waiting tonight too!’), which makes Ji-Won laugh out loud. If they were ever to do the show again, he tells Ho-Dong to just cook barley stone.

It has been a rough day.

A Night of A Quest for New Menu

It has been a rough day. It looks like it’s going to be a rough night too.

At home, where they are supposed to be resting, Ho-Dong announces that he’s got a simple tang-soo-yook (sweet and sour pork dish) recipe. He is sitting on the sofa while Ji-Won is (sleeping while) sitting up and looking miserable on the floor. The Boss is thinking about dishes to add to the menu (“are you on fire now about cooking?” Na PD teases Ho-Dong).

Kang Ho-Dong’s Ramyeon with Jeju Island’s Black Pig

Ho-Dong keeps bugging Ji-Won, who’s trying to sleep, persuading him to agree to adding tang-soo-yook to the menu. Ji-Won, perhaps through years of experience, ignores him and just nods when Ho-Dong pokes him for a response. Soo-Geun tells him to stop bothering Ji-Won. Ho-Dong tries another angle. They should do it since they’re in Jeju Island and it’s famous for the black pigs. With that argument, Soo-Geun brings up 감자전 potato pancake, since he’s not been able to eat any in Jeju Island (and perhaps a reference to the movie ‘Jiseul’?).

Another talk-show?

Suddenly Ji-Won chimes in, mentioning Ho-Dong’s favourite: ramyeon. “Can’t you do anything special with it?” Soo-Geun agrees that Ho-Dong cooks ramyeon really well. Jae-Hyeon mentions that he had brought that up to Ho-Dong. The atmosphere favours ramyeon. And “what if it’s black pig ramyeon?” Soo-Geun challenges Ho-Dong. Ho-Dong gets up from the sofa and approaches the kitchen (Ji-Won now can curl up in peace). Should he do ramyeon with sirloin? He and Soo-Geun discusses the possibility of it. But sirloin is expensive and Na-PD immediately reminds them the amount of debt they owe.

They begin the test for the new menu candidate, ramyeon with sirloin meat. Na PD disqualifies it for its visual quality right away. The members, sans Ji-Won, taste it and give it a no-go in a professional-food-reviewer style. After Ji-Won wakes up, Ho-Dong cooks another for him to try, trying to get his approval. Ho-Dong names the dish dwaepaghetti (dwae from black pig heuk-dwae-ji). Ji-Won gives the visual a polite bashing, a zero star, (Soo-Geun gives real-time commentary on the event) and the taste a praise since Jjajang-ramyeon is delicious by default. “It’s not bad” is the verdict so it’s still a no-go.

A Donkatsu By Any Other Name… (And Measurement)

The meat hammering part is still on the menu for everyone tonight. This time, it includes meat of much smaller size for a new menu, a donkatsu made for kids.

Since children loved Kang-Ho-Dong-katsu, Soo-Geun brought up the idea of donkatsu in smaller size. During lunch after business hours, they discussed the size (it fits the size of a plate for bun and a man’s palm) and its name. Ho-Dong coined the term Lee-Soo-Geun-katsu and they unanimously agreed.

Visual comparison

Ho-Dong beats the smaller meat with care and love. Over night, Soo-Geun-katsu grows taller and bigger.


To be continued to part 2 of episode 2 recap.

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