KDRAMAGUK : Korean Drama Soup

a landing site for quick, completely biased, and totally snarky korean drama reviews


Friday, January 29, 2010

The Grand Chef (2008)

The Grand Chef
식객 / Gourmet

(Jun – Sept 2008)

who’s in it
Kim RaeWon (Attic Cat, My Love Patzzi)
Nam SangMi (Sweet Spy, Time Between Dog and Wolf)
Kim SoYeon (IRIS)
Kwon OhJoong (Damo)

what’s it about
Kim RaeWon finds himself in a succession battle against his older brother to be the head honcho of Unamjung, a fine dining establishment that specializes in traditional Korean fare and even traces its roots back to the cooks of royalty. For an affable fellow who just loves good food and lacks ambition, it is a role he does not covet but ultimately cannot avoid. Nam SangMi is the kind-hearted but obstinate food critic who sees Kim RaeWon and Unamjung as the story that’ll give her career as a food columnist the boost it desperately needs.

24 episodes


wildcard factor
Kim RaeWon really brings Chef Lee SungChan to life and gives him a depth that may not have translated so well from paper had a different actor taken on the role.

after the first episode
I was very impressed. On the surface, Grand Chef looked like it would be a really boring drama, not good or bad, just boring, caught up in its own flights of pretentious fancy. Instead, it was very down-to-earth and it understood something very critical: the key component to the drama couldn’t only be the colorful and elaborate dishes being prepared, but the emotional connection between the people who made them.

gave up

snoozer moments
There was a tendency for the food verbiage to be slathered on a little thick and the cooking “battles” to be a tad long-winded, but overall, it was fairly well-paced.

There was some heavy familial angst between dad and sons but it did not overdo. Everything this show did, even the dramatic moments, seemed all for the simple enjoyment of a good buzz from a good vintage. There was, however, a reoccurring character that was both crazy and drunk most of the time…

what didn’t work
There were some things here and there that I thought could have been trimmed, just to speed along the plot and it must be said, the last “obstacle” the brothers faced in their effort to hold onto their restaurant felt more than just a little forced. The steam behind the story fizzled at the end.

As for the actors, I think Kim SoYeon is beautiful beyond belief and she made a valiant effort to bring believability to her character, but her role was definitely given the shaft end of the development stick. I wish she could have been more fleshed out. All in all, as a general criticism, I wish we could have spent more time with both of the women of the drama and not just in relation to their feelings for the brothers.

what did
Kim RaeWon was really good here. I’d venture to say it may be his best work yet (in a kdrama). This role utilized his boyish charms perfectly and there was a deep sincerity that shined through in his performance. Kim has a great ability to make acting feel effortless and nuanced, which I find really enjoyable to watch as a viewer. I don’t always like the roles he picks or his dramas, but failure or success, you never feel like he’s forcing a performance. I also heard somewhere he can really cook, maybe that’s why he really sold me on his ‘chef-ing’ skills.

what made me want to gouge my eyes out
That last ‘obstacle’ I briefly mentioned definitely was a low point.

what kept me going

Ah, this was a quality drama with a well-written story that cared about its characters and was intelligently casted.

Other factors:
predictability A little
engrish A little
originality I thought it was pretty original
eye-candy It really wasn’t that important
hair and fashion N/A

is it worth trying to find?

total enjoyment factor 

total disdain factor

why this review is completely biased
I am a fan of Kim RaeWon, but not a blindly devoted one. I don’t love everything he’s in, in fact, probably the opposite. I started Grand Chef intending to feel ambivalent about it and found I was pleasantly surprised by it instead, so there are definitely grains of salt in this review.

could a non-kdrama fan like this

Top shelf drama, and a rare ten from me.

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