Award-winning US video series spotlights Korean food

Every year for the past decade, the Culinary Institute of America - one of the US' most prominent professional cooking schools - releases a video series that teaches chefs, food experts and other industry insiders about a region's cuisine.

The programme, called "Savoring the Best of World Flavors," has already earned its street cred in the foodie stratosphere, nabbing not one but two James Beard Awards for its coverage of India, Spain, Mexico, Thailand, Vietnam and Sicily.

Now, the institute has decided to zero in on Korea.

The Culinary Institute of America's director of digital media programs John Barkley, who was filming the upcoming series in Korea last month, said "hansik" is being highlighted out of growing interest in the US

"In 2015, American chefs are interested in learning more about Korea's fermented flavors and 'interactive' dining traditions," Barkley, 46, said in an email interview with The Korea Herald.

Barkley went on to note that food research and consulting firm Technomic predicted Korean food would be a "breakout" cuisine this year.

In response to professional interest in what experts forecast will be this year's hot trend, the institute turned the spotlight on hansik.

According to Barkley, filming for the upcoming series wrapped this June and the video programme is set to premiere in less than a month at the American Culinary Federation National Convention, an event hosted by America's biggest professional chefs' organisation that will run from July 30 to Aug. 3.

The documentary will include "many Korean ingredients, chefs, restaurants, markets, dining traditions," said Barkley, for whom filming the process of making kimchi was one of his most memorable experiences.

"Learning about the various types and techniques for fermenting vegetables was an eye-opening experience," Barkley recalled. "The fermented foods of Korea offer a portal into another dimension of flavor."

Seaweed, according to Jia Choi, CEO of the programme's planner and local production company O'ngo Food Communications, is another ingredient that will be spotlighted in the upcoming documentary.

"These days chefs and gourmands are very interested in seaweed," Choi, 47, explained in a phone interview, adding that the novelty factor and nutritional benefits of seaweed has put it on the foodie map.

Barkley confirmed that seaweed would be "an important area of focus" but "not the sole focus" of the programme.

"We are interested in seaweed because of its flavor, nutritional profile, potential health benefits and cooking applications in the modern kitchen," Barkley elaborated.

Unlike PBS' much-buzzed-about show on Korean cuisine, "Kimchi Chronicles," "Savoring the Best of World Flavors" will be more geared toward food professionals, according to O'ngo CEO Choi.

Choi, whose company was also involved in making "Kimchi Chronicles," explained that the PBS show was more directed at the general public, while the upcoming documentary is being made by a professional cooking school and is more focused on chefs.

"Rather than focusing on entertainment, this programme delves more deeply, more seriously into Korean cuisine," Choi said.