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[Herald Interview] Food noticed via documentarian’s eyes

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 Enjoy: Food items Odyssey, poses in his workplace in Seoul all through an job interview with The Korea Herald on Friday (Kim Hae-yeon/ The Korea Herald)

Conceptualizing and categorizing food when filming a foods documentary collection is the technique guiding documentary producer-turned CEO Lee Wook-jung’s 30-year profession. Lee pulls anything together at the finish of the show, emphasizing the overarching concept that all foodstuff connects.

Speaking with The Korea Herald on his to start with working day out of quarantine following a company vacation to Argentina where he went to seize the country’s exclusive pizza, Lee seemed thrilled and somewhat impatient to unveil his new series, “Food Chronicle.” The sequence is set to be released this August on area streaming system provider TVing.

Lee commenced his career as a KBS Television set producer in 1994 and has constructed a special style of documentaries on the subject of delicacies all-around the globe, linking them to culture and anthropology. His finest-regarded will work include things like “Noodle Road (2008)” and “Wook’s Food Odyssey (2014).” In 2020, he established up his very own production enterprise, Thoughts at Enjoy: Foodstuff Odyssey.

“Noodle Road,” which was filmed in 10 nations around the world more than a two-calendar year period, gained documentary awards at household and abroad, which include a Peabody Awards, the broadcasting field equal to a Pulitzer Prize, as very well as the ABU prize. The piece opened up a new route for Korean documentary administrators operating on the theme of food stuff, which before experienced been minimal to demonstrating Korean delicacies and well known restaurants 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 movies the building of a trout pizza in San Carlos De Bariloche, situated in Argentina’s Patagonia region, in February. (Lee Wook-jung’s Instagram)

“The legitimate insights of my operates arrived out not in standardized places to eat, kitchens and eating halls. I intentionally traveled to rural villages and adopted as a result of their very own traditions, customs and cultural occasions to find out, study, and provide the origins and cooking designs of just about every cuisines,” Lee claimed, mentioning that his approach is even extra relevant right now, because viewers by now are familiar with and have tried out global cuisines.

“When I started off making documentaries, 50 % of the viewers had by no means tasted a taco before. Now, nearly all people is aware what tacos search like and how they taste. A documentary has to dig deeper into a dish, and find out what it was prior to it was exported and globalized,” Lee reported.

With his tutorial history in English literature and cultural anthropology and culinary coaching at Le Cordon Bleu London, Lee became a jack-of-all-trades in the discipline of worldwide cuisines. He has the skillsets to trace back and swiftly realize the underlying tradition and record of a precise dish on the scene, under no circumstances shying absent from keeping up the camera to food stuff on the table in places around the earth.

His new documentary is envisioned to existing nine distinct cuisines, which are divided into 3 key types — flats, wraps and layers. 

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

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

“Any dish can match into one particular of the three,” Lee mentioned, describing pizza and jeon as flats, dumplings, tacos and ssam as wraps and sandwiches, cakes and sushi as levels.

Using apart the usefulness, practicality and portability of each individual menu, Lee emphasizes the aesthetically pleasing physical appearance of a dish as a very critical variable. “We see waves on sea shores, and geological stratums on rocks. Significantly of what we see and come to feel in mother nature is applied to cooking and planning meals.”

In the course of his new vacation to Buenos Aires, Lee was invited to a spontaneous tango overall performance when striving out pizza. In a metropolis with the most significant number of pizzerias for every capita in the environment, Lee felt the movements of tango linked to the sadness and adversities that operating class immigrants professional in Argentina. The immigrants’ intake of pizza as their daily meal and the restrained but vibrant tango dance was captured in Lee’s documentary on the location.

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

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

“Things go in an unforeseen way and that is the attraction of being a documentary producer. You get invited to destinations not on your filming itinerary. Which is Alright, as very long as you have the eyesight to hook up the dots with your topic, which for me, has been and will constantly be, the origins of food.” 

The documentary producer also experienced views on how numerous people see meals on their screens these times. “I generally see people of my technology criticizing and devaluing mukbang. But I assume it demonstrates the main of what it means for people ‘to take in.’ We share and communicate above foodstuff on our desk, and in a digitized environment, we can do so by making this sort of dwell material with global neighbors.”

Moreover filming documentaries, a large part of the work of Lee’s enterprise is accomplishing social very good to communities by foods. Acquiring teamed up with big firms and dining establishments all around Seoul, Lee delivers lunch packing containers to very poor neighborhoods on a normal basis, while also generating a sustainable atmosphere for independent cafe homeowners.

The director’s new nine-aspect collection will be released exclusively on Tving in mid-August.

By Kim Hae-yeon ([email protected])