I had this drama on my radar for quite a while now and after watching Gong Hyo Jin in Master’s Sun I thought that it was time to give it a try. And it was a wise decision my friends. A very wise one.
So the story revolves around Seo Yoo Kyung, played by Gong Hyo Jin, who is working for three years at an italian restaurant as an assistant cook, which essentially means that she is not actually cooking but instead does all the assistant help in the kitchen, but from now on she will start holding a pan and cook. Also we have Choi Hyon Wook, played by Lee Sun Gyun, who is an accomplished chef trained in Italy and now comes to work as the head chef in the restaurant where Seo Yoo Kyung works.
Seo Yoo Kyung Is a lovely and kind woman who dreams of becoming a great italian chef. She is kind, sweet, always there to help others, determined, stubborn but she also lacks faith in her herself. She falls for Choi Hyon Wook and slowly starts to believe in herself and in her abilities. I really loved her character. She is a great role model for girls out there who want to do something for themselves but also want to love and balance everything out. She is stronger than she actually thinks she is. She takes everything in, every complain, every nasty comment and she still tries to do her best. She is lonely and is looking for someone to believe in her. The portrayal of her character by Gong Hyo Jin is amazing. She really is a talented actress and the way she expresses that hidden sensitivity of her character is purely amazing.
Choi Hyon Wook is essentially a heartbroken and lonely man. He is fierce, stubborn, kind of selfish and talented. He shows his caring and love through yelling to his cooks but that is only because he wants the best from and for them. He was betrayed in the past and that has formed a wall around him but after meeting and knowing Yoo Kyung he slowly understands that things can’t be solved with simple solutions like not having any woman in his kitchen. Lee Sun Gyun, he did such a great job with this character. He manages to show that his character is not a stereotypical arrogant, talented guy but instead he is a real human, with emotions and weaknesses. His facial expressions said so much more about the character and his feelings than words did. (Something random actually but Lee Sun Gyun was in Petty Romance my first exposure to korean entertainment and I thought he was handsome and that was it. BUT here I fully understood his charisma and that he is actually very very handsome and most importantly very very very charming. )
Oh Sae Young is a chef that has a past with Hyon Wook. She betrayed him not only as a chef but as a lover. She comes back to regain his respect. She does have some thoughts about getting back together but many props to the writers that didn’t made that her only purpose and also that they didn’t made her one of those annoying second female leads that are trying to sabotage our main couple. The theme of seeking atonement (I just love that word and its meaning!), and setting the wrongs right was well played here.
Kim San is, we found out later on, the owner of the restaurant and he is in love with Yoo Kyung. He secretly leaves on her locker pictures with blooming cactus for three years now. He is a good guy. He is sweet, gentle and everything you would want. But he falls in this trap that all second male leads fall. He doesn’t find enough courage to take a step forward and actually express his feelings. He is afraid- but in life you need to try to overcome your fear of rejection and tell the other person how you feel. They wait for so long and then it’s only natural for someone else to come along and win the girl (or boy whatever the case is).
Well what can I say? It was that good! It avoided all the cliches and it was very realistic. I liked how the characters showed from the beginning that they liked each other, they never actually hide it from each other.
Yoo Kyung is in love with Hyun Wook the chef, she sees him as an ambitious, talented and accomplished person, someone to look up to. He has that brightness that smart, independent people have that makes them very engaging, very desirable. She sees him as her mentor and wants to learn from him and stand next to him proudly. But Yoo Kyung is also in love with Hyun Wook the person and that’s what matters most in their romance. From the moment they met she knew that he is a good person and despite everything, all his yelling, all his insults, and his wrong moves she stills find a way to understand him and to love him.
Hyun Wook on the other hand is a lonely person, he says so himself. He was hurt in the past and he doesn’t let in anyone that easily. But something in Yoo Kyung made him change his mind. Ηe sees her potential, he sees her shyness but also her kind character, he likes the fact that she looks up to him and that she is not afraid to put him in the corner and tell him that his behavior is not so right. I do believe he appreciated and liked her a lot also because she wasn’t afraid or ashamed of her feelings towards him and spoke her mind. She makes him a better, a kinder person and he gives her the confidence she was missing and needed. The way Hyun Wook looked at Yoo Kyung throughout that drama each time expressing different feelings and thoughts was my favourite part of the whole series.
Gong Hyo Jin and Lee Sun Gyun were so natural and so amazing. They took something that could easily pass out as another rom-com romance and they made it matter.
The Story (apart form the romance)
Now apart from the good portrayal of romance I did think that the story gives more to its audience. We see how in in the “work-field” everything has to do with power, who has it, who wants it. Does the fact that you have power means that you can do whatever you want?
Also definitely the theme of being a woman working in a man’s environment and in general being a woman working and getting recognition are things that the story tries to explain. Hyun Wook fires all the women from the kitchen and constantly throughout the series we see him challenging the equality between women and men in his field of work( and only there). But there is the thing, we are never quite sure if this is a genuine belief or if everything has to do with the way he was betrayed in the past. In the end I do believe that it was mostly because of the past and Yoo Kyung helped him change these beliefs of him.
Lastly the theme of going after your dreams and never give up is evident in this drama. From our lovely Yoo Kyung, to the “korean-team”, and the chef Hyun Wook everyone in one way or another are trying to figure out how to succeed.
The Ending (spoilers be aware!)
I think that it was the ending that prevented me from rating this drama with a 5/5. It wasn’t clear enough for me. Even though I was happy for the “korean-team” that finally gained recognition and are able to study in the heart of Pasta I wanted a clearer ending for Yoo Kyung. I would be happy with either of the two choices she had. I would like it if she decided to go to Italy to study, because she really had come a long way and everyone deserves a chance in further education but I would be equally happy to see her staying in Korea with the man she loves and learn from him. But I wanted to make it more obvious that the decision was only hers. Whatever the choice, it would be a hard choice to make, she has to think about a lot of things, about the people she would leave behind but the ultimate decision would have to be what made her happy. I do feel that the decision of her staying in Korea was what she actually wanted but still I wanted a more obvious way of her deciding that “yes, this is what I want to do”.
Overall though a great drama, definitely something worth your time. I have read reviews that they found it kind of boring, and that the story doesn’t go anywhere but I would have to disagree. It’s the journey that matters not the destination. (yes this is not mine, it is the main theme of Odyssey, so..)
(Also I’m becoming a huge fan of Gong Hyo Jin and I’m thinking about starting another drama she’s in but I can’t decide.. Should I start The Greatest Love or Biscuit Teacher and Star Candy?? Aaaa decisions,decisions..)