...when the screen takes over...

Kang’s Kitchen, Third Episode (Part 1)

Oh, the drama! Or what would’ve looked and felt like in any other show. Fortunately, laughter abounds in Kang’s Kitchen.

At the moment, Kang’s Kitchen is in crisis, due to the following problems:

  1. Soup is almost gone. Roux-to-be is ruined. They need to have soup before new customers come in.
  2. Their first ever takeaway order causes a mass breakdown. Ji-Won just cannot stop laughing at the state of the takeaway. Even the trustworthy Jae-Hyeon had forgotten to put omelette on top of the fried rice. Not to mention the messed up packing style and what-not.
  3. There are too many takeaway orders, for new and leftover food.

As if those aren’t enough, a snippet shows that those are of a little consequence compared to what awaits them at the end of the day. Today, at 4:20-ish PM, their cooking master, Chef Baek Jong-Won will gravely ask his ‘sign of approval’ to be returned to him. “A promise is a promise, isn’t it?” He did promise to take it back if the restaurant didn’t get the food right. “I don’t sugar-coat words. But don’t feel bad since I’ve got no choice.”

How will Kang Ho-Dong, on whom Jae-Hyeon remarked being a little too sensitive just hours earlier, take it? What’s more, a customer complains that a donkatsu isn’t well cooked, a blow to Ho-Dong’s confidence and reputation.

(A caption reads “the day of good fortune”)

Kang’s Kitchen’s Second Day Continues…

The kitchen works on correcting mistakes. New roux is being made. Jae-Hyeon puts the omelette in the omurice pack while kicking himself for the stupid mistake, “what a mental breakdown!” Ho-Dong keeps encouraging the members. “We didn’t mean it. We didn’t do it intentionally. That’s what counts.”

Soo-Geun moves on to a takeaway order and finds it troublesome. Annoyed, he starts talking about who’s to blame. Ho-Dong asks him (and everyone) not to blame or hate any one even if he is angry. Soo-Geun denies being angry, he is just overwhelmed by the bulk and clarity of the orders. Soo-Geun calls Min-Ho to ask which they should do first but Min-Ho doesn’t know either. Ho-Dong tells Min-Ho that ‘I don’t know’ is not an acceptable answer. If you don’t know then you better find out.

Helping with the takeaways…

Min-Ho carefully reads the order board and advises Soo-Geun. He also helps with the wrapping and packing. They cannot keep up with takeaway orders fast enough that he has to ask customers to wait. Packed takeaways begin to pile up on the Hall service table. Jae-Hyeon, who is also confused by an order, consults Min-Ho whether he should make another omurice. He confirms there has been additional order.

(A caption reads “the day the student part-timer wants to cry”)

Min-Ho slowly loses his spirit. He struggles with a takeaway pack which seems to refuse to be packed by him.

 

In the middle of the crisis, Ji-Won brings in the next customers, a family with two children, who have been waiting for a long time. Min-Ho takes their order for one Kang-Ho-Dong-katsu with rice, one Lee-Soo-Geun-katsu, one omurice, and one drink. He brings that one last serving of soup to the first table with ease. He informs them about the soup situation.

In the kitchen, Jae-Hyeon tells Ho-Dong, who is working on the roux, that the soup has gone completely. Ho-Dong promises that new soup will be ready in 10 minutes even though the butter in the mix hasn’t melted yet. Jae-Hyeon knows better. “It’ll take about 30 minutes to cook soup.” Ho-Dong assures everyone in the kitchen not to worry for he will be responsible for the soup. Soo-Geun, miffed, remarks that the most urgent at the moment is the amount of meat to fry. Detecting Soo-Geun’s annoyance, Ho-Dong lets out his newfound catchphrase: “don’t get upset, everyone…”

But Ho-Dong does see the problem. He asks Jae-Hyeon to help with the rue as soon as he’s free from the omurice order. Soo-Geun throws sarcasm that earns him a sterner telling-off. “Mr Lee Soo-Geun,” Ho-Dong begins, which we don’t see due to Mysterious Power’s intervention. Ho-Dong tells him to behave.

 

The Hall still brings in leftover to be packed. Ji-Won decides that they shouldn’t do takeaway orders anymore for safety and hygiene reasons. The hall’s workload has been so intense, he almost fainted. Since he can’t concentrate, he can’t do maths properly.

….. More maths problems.

Even customers chuckle — who can forget their stellar performances in ‘New Journey To The West’ maths quizzes?! — while observing Ji-Won and Min-Ho handling the bill and payment manually, and pity them for it. “…Looks like, it’s $35.5,” our genius Ji-Won tells customers of the fifth table. A guess? The man paying the bill expresses worry whether they pay less than they should and Ji-Won may have to make up for it. “The drink is on the house,” Ji-Won dismisses their worries. At another time, watching him struggling, counting in his head to work out change, a customer offers to pay with card instead of cash.

 

In the kitchen, Soo-Geun informs the chef that the mini-katsu (Lee-Soo-Geun-katsu) is ready to fry. Ho-Dong, straining the roux through a sieve, asks Soo-Geun to try the roux. They go on a hilarious banter, sniping while smiling at each other, as Soo-Geun shows defiance to Ho-Dong’s order (“I’ll see you when there is no camera around,” Ho-Dong threatens). Their voices carry to the hall, making the customers laugh. Min-Ho tells them off for being too loud. But tension between them rises.

The Tom and Jerry Show

A while later, Soo-Geun washes the dishes and bowls. The sound of metal clashing irritates Ho-Dong. He tells Soo-Geun to do it carefully and handle the bowls gently. Soo-Geun just says the noises (of metal clashing) are inevitable. Somehow Soo-Geun’s passive aggressive way makes Ho-Dong laugh. Then Soo-Geun gets irritated as he sees a dirty container hidden carelessly when he has done washing. He tells Ho-Dong to be mindful because Soo-Geun ends up washing dishes endlessly. Soo-Geun’s reprimand gets Ho-Dong worked up that he lets out a “hey, you!” Soo-Geun doesn’t let it slip. Ho-Dong tries to lower the tension by using his mantra, “I don’t hate you…”

(A caption reads “because this is a happy kitchen.”)

For a while, the kitchen enjoys a quiet calm as everyone does their work to meet the first table’s order. Ho-Dong cooks Kang-Ho-Dong-katsu, Jae-Hyeon finishes the omurice, and Soo-Geun takes care of the cooking logistics. And soon, the first table family enjoy their meal.

 

… an unspeakable word…

Back to dish-washing, Soo-Geun brings up the takeaway, using ‘맛이 간다’* (flavour to-go) to describe it. Ho-Dong forbids him from using that expression, theirs is ‘맛을 내는 집’* (house of flavour). He looks offended and insists that Soo-Geun pays attention to his explanation. When Soo-Geun casually responds and sounds disinterested, Ho-Dong lets out an angry “ya imma!” His words are heard in the hall, Ji-Won comes and reminds them that they’ve got customers. “Restrain yourselves, please…” Soo-Geun rubs the fact that the guests are listening to Ho-Dong’s outburst, that he should behave, clearly provoking him. Ho-Dong chuckles.

* something is probably lost in translation. They’re playing with words.

 

They finally have soup. Ho-Dong tells everyone to cut down a little on selling soup since they’ve sold too much today. Soo-Geun corrects him that they’ve let it too much for free, as service. Ho-Dong disagrees on this ‘free soup’ concept and shares his view in an impassioned speech, going on and on about giving ‘free’ soup is not service but a way to keep their customers satisfied. Soo-Geun points out that that is service. Ho-Dong chuckles but he resumes his villain role and threatens Soo-Geun. “You are so finished today!” After Mysterious Power interrupts, Soo-Geun, unperturbed, simply says there are so many dishes need washing.

Cosmic interventions

They can’t afford to joke around. Group customers have left behind piles of dirty dishes that need cleaning. As soon as possible. “The dirty dishes are no joke, Hyung!” Ji-Won tells Soo-Geun, empathising. Min-Ho comes with more plates to clean. The Hall team also have to clean cups and glasses used for drinks.

Soo-Geun asks whether they should buy a dishwashing machine. He asks Jae-Hyeon about the time and is perplexed that they have only been open for less than two hours. When Jae-Hyeon, who’s wiping the plates, brings up menu addition, Soo-Geun laughs it off. “We need more people. Not more menu!”

They get more people all right. Customers keep coming in. Among them are three Suwon FC supporters — today sees a match between Suwon and Jeju.

 

Soo-Geun, the human dish-washing machine slave, has just finished washing the last batch of dirty dishes. Ji-Won and Min-Ho come bringing more dirty plates. Ho-Dong thanks the Hall team. “Won’t you respond?” Ho-Dong asks when they just walk silently back to the Hall. The Hall team thanks the kitchen. Ho-Dong asks them to smile.

More nightmare for Soo-Geun, the dishwasher

Min-Ho gets to arrange the shoes. A customer remarks that his work must have been difficult. “Because I’ve never done this before,” Min-Ho says. In the kitchen, Soo-Geun yields to the new batch of dirty plates. “Just think of this as part two, a sequel.” Once he finishes it, Soo-Geun takes an empty bottle from the Hall to have it refilled from water purifier.

Ho-Dong invites everyone to do little stretching, sends ‘I love you’ to Soo-Geun, unaware of water overflowing from the bottle on water purifier. He thanks Soo-Geun and Jae-Hyeon and both graciously respond. Then they notice the overflowing water. Ho-Dong stops the flow. Soo-Geun chants Ho-Dong’s favourite chant, “don’t get upset.”

“Whose doing is this?” Ho-Dong asks. Soo-Geun feigns ignorance. Ho-Dong brings the bottle to Min-Ho, who receives it awkwardly, and tells him of the mess it has caused. Soo-Geun confesses to turning the water and neglecting it. Ho-Dong looks upset, ready to share his piece of mind. Mysterious Power intervenes again and Soo-Geun is safe.

 

 

New customers get the donkatsus and, as usual, react to their sizes. Min-Ho updates the orders’ states. Soo-Geun asks about the food and Min-Ho tells him there hasn’t been any complain yet.

Just when they think peace has returned, the customer on the fourth table calls and complains that the Lee-Soo-Geun-katsu is still rare in the middle. Ji-Won brings the plate and passes it to the kitchen. The mood turns serious. This is the kitchen’s first food mistake. They shall make another donkatsu.

a cautionary tale

The new Lee-Soo-Geun-katsu is served, well-cooked. Jae-Hyeon notices the rejected Lee-Soo-Geun-katsu sitting on a platform in front of the stove. Ho-Dong leaves it there on purpose as a cautionary tale.

Business continues as customers come and go. The kitchen keeps cooking. Ho-Dong becomes more sensitive to the thickness of donkatsu, avoiding any more mistake. As he hands over the biggest donkatsu of the day, he instructs Ji-Won to mention it to the customers. Ji-Won does so and congratulates them for getting the biggest donkatsu of the day. Although Ho-Dong belatedly tells him to not let other tables hear it.

 

After some time, everyone relaxes a little. They’ve weathered storm of the second day. Ho-Dong lets out a painful moan and asks Soo-Geun why his back hurts so much. “Because we have never sat down, not even once,” Soo-Geun says while, washing kitchenware again. Ji-Won persuades Ho-Dong to close business tomorrow. Ho-Dong pretends not hearing it. For the record, “the owner does not complain,” Ho-Dong says. But Soo-Geun says the owner’s feeling uncomfortable. Ho-Dong quietly stuffs a cherry tomato into his mouth.

Ho-Dong speaks to the camera. “Robot. Salad. Cross!” This prompts Soo-Geun to comment on the well-being of their boss. Ho-Dong looks at the camera and says his face has shrunk by half while admiring his jawline. Behind him, Ji-Won asks if they can take more guests. Ho-Dong snaps out of his reverie. He doesn’t answer but he gets ready.

Soo-Geun, at his dish-washing corner, sings the misery of love and the kitchen that make him sad. In the Hall, Min-Ho does the washing up. Ji-Won wonders aloud, in amazement, how Yoon Yeo-Jeong do it — ‘Yoon’s Kitchen’ is coming back on 5th January 2018. Soo-Geun wonders aloud why business is suddenly so busy today. Ji-Won wonders if other shops are also as crazy and busy as theirs. His body moves like machine now. To Na PD, he says he thought he saw hell for 40 seconds. “Or I may even have gone there?!” “Thank God, you are alive,” Na PD says.

Everyone is tired. Soo-Geun remarks they haven’t sat down for hours. Ho-Dong mentions the relativity of time, how we experience time differently.

The time is 4:19 pm.

A Fateful Encounter

As Min-Ho is about to go to the restroom outside, he sees Chef Baek Jong-Won walking towards the entrance. Min-Ho abandons the restroom. The Kitchen staffs all go to the Hall to greet Chef Baek. He is Kang’s Kitchen’s first celebrity patron.

Chef Baek greets and engages with some of the customers who are surprised to see him there. “Enjoy the meal. I am here to eat too,” he says. He asks if the food is delicious. The customers give the omurice unanimous praise. After a round of greeting, Chef Baek takes the third table. He comments how he has to go far away just to eat donkatsu.

In the Hall, Ji-Won gives Chef Baek the menu and informs him that this is their second day of business. Chef Baek orders one Kang-Ho-Dong-katsu and one Omurice. Back to the kitchen, preparing for the order, Ho-Dong is touched by the master’s visit. He tells Jae-Hyeon not to be afraid. “Let’s do this well.”

Strangely, Ho-Dong also feels energised. On the first day of their cooking lesson with Chef Baek, Ho-Dong asked for a ‘sign of approval’, signed by Chef Baek. However, Chef Baek had threatened to take it back if the food isn’t delicious. The moment has finally come. Chef Baek will give his evaluation as promised.

Quantum superposition: nervous and expectant.

Ho-Dong becomes a little too critical of the donkatsu’s shape and thickness “Just treat this like we would with any other customer,” Soo-Geun says. Ho-Dong agrees. They can do it. Ho-Dong carefully gets the sheet of meat ready. Soo-Geun offers encouraging words along the way.

Meanwhile, Jae-Hyeon cooks omurice calmly, unperturbed by their drama.

Both chefs present the food to Chef Baek. Jae-Hyeon’s omurice draws curiosity and praise for its presentation. But they should leave Chef Baek alone while he is enjoying his food. The result of his evaluation shall come later.

Focus!

Ji-Won observes that Chef Baek eats the donkatsu without the sauce. “So I can taste the meat and tell its state,” Chef Baek explains. The kitchen staffs are anxious. The Hall team, who are watching Chef Baek eating, are also nervous. He cuts and tries different parts of the donkatsu to check its thickness and evenness. Next, Chef Baek tries the omurice.

From the kitchen, Jae-Hyeon watches closely. Ho-Dong walks around aimlessly. (And is that one of the Signal‘s background music?)

Soo-Geun breaks the tension by asking Chef Baek if he could have the food a little since he hasn’t eaten anything (caption reads “a slave’s pitiful hunger plea”). He also tells their sad state of employment, “we are forced labours.” Chef Baek chuckles. It’s followed by a public service announcement for phone number of Counseling Centre for Employment and Labour.

Mistreated at work? Call and report it!

 

Finally, Chef Baek is ready to give his verdict. Ho-Dong sits opposite the chef and the others gather around them. But first, Chef Baek asks for his sign of approval to be removed from the wall. Everyone is on tenterhooks. He starts by explaining his position. He is known to give sharp and clear-cut reviews. He tells the ‘Journey’ members not to feel bad because he has to give them an honest and fair evaluation. Soo-Geun asserts that they understand his position.

The conclusion is, as promised, that Chef Baek’s sign of approval shall stay on the wall of Kang’s Kitchen. Everyone is relieved and bursts into applauds. First of all, Chef Baek tells them that he is moved by how far they’ve learned his trade. The thickness of donkatsu is impressive — “each sheet is pounded for 15 minutes,” Jae-Hyeon says. He also tried every corner and found the taste was also evenly satisfying. The donkatsu was also evenly coloured. Usually he would have something to nitpick, but not this time. Kang Ho-Dong is visibly moved by Chef Baek’s praises.

listening to kind words after a hard day

On to the omurice. When he saw the omurice for the first time, the words that came to his mind was the proverb ‘청출어람’ (cheong-choor-eo-ram, chinese 靑出於藍 :the student has surpassed his master) which is the greatest tribute to the master. Now, it’s him who should learn more from his student.

A caption paints Ho-Dong as “jealous”. He looks impatient listening to Chef Baek giving Jae-Hyeon high praise. Min-Ho chuckles silently. Jae-Hyeon asks Chef Baek to also include omurice in his “sign of approval”.

Chef Baek shares the thing he is most worried about. Actors usually learn fast at first but then succumb to tricks instead of sticking to the essentials. Fortunately, both donkatsu and omurice have none of those tricks. He is pleased with them.

However, Chef Baek criticises the portion of cabbage, it is too little. Soo-Geun, who spends hours in cabbage hell, looks crestfallen. Min-Ho laughs and then massages his shoulders — Chef Baek is surprised that he works on the cabbage alone. The macaroni salad is almost bland. Soo-Geun asks whether Chef Baek returns to Seoul today. If not, he invites Chef Baek to stay overnight at their place and join their hammering session tonight. Everyone laughs.

 

 

Their talk continues into the night. Ho-Dong brings up his obsession with tang-soo-yook, sweet sour pork. At nights, he has been searching the internet for tang-soo-yook, watching videos (including Chef Baek’s) about tang-soo-yook. He thinks the recipe is easy and it’s worth a try.

Although it is easy, Chef Baek Jong-Won explains why tang-soo-yook would be a bad idea for Kang’s Kitchen. It is usually served in a course meal. Even in a course meal, tang-soo-yook is the flavour that stays in mind. Its sweet and sour taste overpowers other meal’s flavour. Rather than sweet and sour, something spicy, preferably soup, will complement existing menu better.

It’s also better if it’s something they like eating and cook best. Soo-Geun mentions Ho-Dong’s aptitude for cooking ramyeon. Ho-Dong is famous for his ability to cook 6 packs of ramyeon. That starts something in Chef Baek’s head. He mentions tang-soo-yook they talked about and he describes the dish in detail, involving ramyeon, meat cuts and other ingredients. “That sounds delicious!” Soo-Geun exclaims.

Ho-Dong points out that it’s not tang-soo-yook. Should it be donkatsu cut to pieces? “No!” Chef Baek rejects it because donkatsu’s crust will get damp and peeled off. Jae-Hyeon thinks it’ll cater to the local taste. Chef Baek suggests they try it.

Quest for new menu

 

Everyone gathers in the kitchen. Chef Baek tells them to do the cooking while he will be giving instructions. They will bring the idea of ramyeon and tang-soo-yook into reality. Ho-Dong cuts fresh meat into small cuts. He mixes them with flour and cook them one by one so they don’t lump together. Chef Baek advises them to make a lot in advance.

Next, Chef Baek makes the seasoning. His knife skill impresses with those staccato sounds, that Soo-Geun comments their kitchen finally sounds like one. The onion, green onion, and garlic are fried to simmer, and then add chilli powder. Then they cook ramyeon with the added seasoning and meat cuts.

In the end, everyone loves it. The broth is a winner. They add rice, more meat, and radish to it and eat until there’s no more.

After enjoying the new dish, Chef Baek is leaving. The ‘Journey’ members give him a heartfelt send-off, expressing their gratitude.

a night to remember?


To be continued to part 2 of Episode 3 recap.

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