[Herald Interview] Meals noticed via documentarian’s eyes

Lee Wook-jung, documentary producer and CEO of Intellect at Play: Foodstuff Odyssey, poses in his business office in Seoul all through an interview with The Korea Herald on Friday (Kim Hae-yeon/ The Korea Herald)

Conceptualizing and categorizing food stuff when filming a food items documentary sequence is the method powering documentary producer-turned CEO Lee Wook-jung’s 30-year profession. Lee pulls every thing alongside one another at the conclusion of the clearly show, emphasizing the overarching theme that all food items connects.

Talking with The Korea Herald on his very first working day out of quarantine next a business enterprise journey to Argentina exactly where he went to seize the country’s exclusive pizza, Lee appeared thrilled and rather impatient to unveil his new sequence, “Food Chronicle.” The sequence is established to be introduced this August on community streaming platform assistance TVing.

Lee started his profession as a KBS Tv set producer in 1994 and has built a unique type of documentaries on the matter of cuisine all around the globe, linking them to society and anthropology. His very best-acknowledged works consist of “Noodle Street (2008)” and “Wook’s Foodstuff Odyssey (2014).” In 2020, he set up his have creation business, Intellect at Participate in: Meals Odyssey.

“Noodle Street,” which was filmed in 10 nations in excess of a two-yr interval, gained documentary awards at household and abroad, like a Peabody Awards, the broadcasting marketplace equal to a Pulitzer Prize, as nicely as the ABU prize. The piece opened up a new route for Korean documentary administrators operating on the topic of foods, which right before had been constrained to exhibiting Korean delicacies and well-liked places to eat 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 films the producing of a trout pizza in San Carlos De Bariloche, positioned in Argentina’s Patagonia region, in February. (Lee Wook-jung’s Instagram)

“The correct insights of my is effective came out not in standardized dining establishments, kitchens and dining halls. I intentionally traveled to rural villages and adopted via their have traditions, customs and cultural activities to learn, review, and supply the origins and cooking variations of just about every cuisines,” Lee reported, mentioning that his strategy is even extra suitable these days, considering that viewers previously are familiar with and have experimented with international cuisines.

“When I begun producing documentaries, fifty percent of the viewers had in no way tasted a taco right before. Today, virtually every person knows what tacos search like and how they style. A documentary has to dig deeper into a dish, and learn what it was before it was exported and globalized,” Lee reported.

With his tutorial history in English literature and cultural anthropology and culinary instruction at Le Cordon Bleu London, Lee became a jack-of-all-trades in the field of worldwide cuisines. He has the skillsets to trace back and immediately comprehend the underlying society and heritage of a certain dish on the scene, under no circumstances shying absent from holding up the digicam to food items on the desk in locations close to the planet.

His new documentary is anticipated to current 9 unique cuisines, which are divided into 3 essential groups — flats, wraps and levels. 

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

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

“Any dish can in good shape into one particular of the 3,” Lee claimed, conveying pizza and jeon as flats, dumplings, tacos and ssam as wraps and sandwiches, cakes and sushi as layers.

Taking apart the usefulness, practicality and portability of each and every menu, Lee emphasizes the aesthetically pleasing appearance of a dish as a pretty significant element. “We see waves on sea shores, and geological stratums on rocks. Much of what we see and experience in mother nature is applied to cooking and building foodstuff.”

Through his recent excursion to Buenos Aires, Lee was invited to a spontaneous tango overall performance while seeking out pizza. In a city with the most significant range of pizzerias per capita in the earth, Lee felt the movements of tango joined to the disappointment and adversities that doing the job course immigrants seasoned in Argentina. The immigrants’ usage of pizza as their daily food and the restrained but lively tango dance was captured in Lee’s documentary on the spot.

Poster for “Wook’s Food stuff Odyssey,” KBS’ world-wide meals documentary directed and developed by Lee in 2014. (KBS)

“Things go in an sudden way and that is the attraction of being a documentary producer. You get invited to sites not on your filming itinerary. Which is Alright, as long as you have the vision to hook up the dots with your theme, which for me, has been and will often be, the origins of meals.” 

The documentary producer also had ideas on how quite a few folks see foods on their screens these days. “I frequently see people today of my technology criticizing and devaluing mukbang. But I feel it shows the main of what it suggests for human beings ‘to take in.’ We share and speak over food items on our table, and in a digitized planet, we can do so by building this kind of live content with global neighbors.”

In addition to filming documentaries, a large portion of the get the job done of Lee’s business is accomplishing social fantastic to communities by way of food stuff. Owning teamed up with major businesses and dining establishments around Seoul, Lee delivers lunch packing containers to poor neighborhoods on a standard basis, when also building a sustainable ecosystem for impartial cafe proprietors.

The director’s new nine-part series will be released solely on Tving in mid-August.

By Kim Hae-yeon ([email protected])