Korean-French chef Mathieu Villeneuve is working to promote traditional Korean cuisine or "hansik" to the rest of the world. Because of his unique background, the 28-year-old says he understands the similarities and differences between Korean and French cuisines.
Born in Korea but later adopted and raised in Avignon, France, he said, "I fell in love with hansik as soon as I tasted it for the first time during my first visit to Korea in 2003."
Since then, he has been working to promote hansik to the rest of the world by developing Korean-inspired recipes that suit global tastes. To this end, he has served as a mentor in this year's cooking competition hosted by the Korean Food Foundation, a governmental organization set up in 2010 to globalize hansik.
In the competition, Villeneuve instructed a total of eight Korean adoptees divided into two groups to make a dish out of the main ingredient, "ddeok galbi" or ground beef patty, in combination with food from other countries. He says he came up with the ideas for the dishes in the competition from his experience working in restaurants in France.
He said hansik distinguishes itself from other cuisines through its sauces.
"Hot pepper paste and soy paste are mixed in harmony with other ingredients in Korean food, and this makes hansik unique," Villeneuve said. "One can remember the taste of bulgogi and ddeok galbi when he or she tastes it."
He said another appeal of hansik is the fact that it's healthy.
"In France, people tend to use less oil and butter to promote better digestion. However, one does not have to worry about that when eating hansik," the chef said. "Moreover, one slices meat when eating Korean food, which makes one consume fewer calories compared to when eating European food."
He said French cuisine developed and was influenced by cuisines from other parts of the world such as Europe and Africa.
In the same way, he is finding ways to combine French and Korean cuisines.
"For instance, I found out that crab marinated in soy sauce can taste perfect with beef, which Europeans like to eat, and that's what I've been trying to develop."