Hotels hold 'hansik' promotions overseas
By Kim Rahn
Various government and private organizations are promoting “hansik,” or Korean cuisine, around the world.
These days another sector has joined the push, the hotel industry. Top-class hotels here hold hansik introduction events or send their chefs to brand chain hotels overseas where they teach local chefs there how to make different types of Korean food.
Parnas Hotel Corp., which operates Grand InterContinental Seoul Parnas and InterContinental Seoul COEX, signed an agreement with InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) and Korea Agro-Fisheries Trade Corp. to promote Korean cuisine across Asia.
A ceremony marking the agreement was held at InterContinental Hanoi Westlake Hotel in Vietnam on Oct. 30.
“Following the agreement, we’ll send Korean chefs to InterContinental hotels in Asia for hansik promotions or gala dinners. It is our goal to encourage those hotels to have regular hansik menus in their restaurants instead of a one-time event,” a spokeswoman of the Parnas Hotel said.
The agreement is also expected to help college graduates majoring in Korean cuisine get jobs at the Asian hotels as well as boost the export of Korean agricultural products.
Before the agreement, the Korean hotel group held Korean food promotions in Malaysia, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Chile this year.
Since July, a dish created by the chef at the Grand Hilton Seoul has been served as an in-flight meal on Malaysia Airlines.
Chef de partie Son Sung-ho made a bowl of rice topped with chicken, and it is provided to business class passengers on flights from Seoul to Kuala Lumpur.
Ritz-Carlton Seoul has sent its Korean cuisine chefs to Ritz-Carlton hotels overseas. Executive Chef Kim Soon-ki and two other chefs left for Ritz-Carlton Shenzhen last week to provide around 20 types of traditional hansik dishes.
JW Marriott Seoul has also held hansik promotions for years at JW Marriot and the hotel group’s other brands in Beijing, Shanghai, Czech, and Switzerland.
Rare Korean restaurants at hotels
However, despite such overseas promotions, most top-class hotels here don’t have their own Korean restaurants, although they provide some Korean dishes in buffet restaurants.
According to a report released last month by Rep. Cho Hae-jin of the Saenuri Party, only four out of 19 five-star hotels in Seoul have Korean restaurants ― Sheraton Grande Walkerhill, Renaissance Seoul Hotel, Lotte Hotel Seoul and Mayfield Hotel & Resort. When including four-star hotels, 15 out of 77 hotels in the capital serve Korean cuisine.
The government has encouraged hotels to have Korean restaurants: In 2009, it was decided to give more points to hotels with Korean restaurants when evaluating hotel grades; in 2010, it said it would give 100 million won to five-star hotels that open restaurants serving Korean fare ― but this effort went in vain.
Hotel officials say they don’t set up Korean restaurants because it takes more time and effort to make Korean dishes than food from other cultures and that the costs of ingredients and labor are higher.