- You once said that, “Food offers the best rest, communication and happiness.” I wonder if you also experienced trials and errors before you realized such findings.
In the past, I did feel unhappy sometimes when I went to cooking classes every week. Now, in my cooking classes, students come to my place once a month to learn how to cook four or five dishes, including desserts. They'll be able to practice at home what they learn in class, until the next class, four weeks later.
I do feel difficulties when cooking sometimes, but the food does bring joy. I've always been teaching people. I taught Japanese language after graduating from university. I felt confident to teach others if I prepared properly. I thought cooking would be more fun than teaching Japanese, as I could enjoy the food after cooking. Cooking can be difficult for me when it becomes a labor, such as going shopping for groceries and preparing the ingredients. Still, I do feel I have an aptitude for it. I find it interesting. Cooking seems to be my vocation.
-You're a naturalized Korean, but I wonder if you might feel like a stranger sometimes. Is there any moment when you feel that way?
I don't feel like I'm a stranger here on a day-to-day basis. Recently, however, I did feel a little that way when I saw people taking unified action for socio-political change. Living here, I was a direct witness to this phenomenon. Other than that, however, I only really feel strange, more and more often, when I go back to Japan. I even think that, “I am no longer Japanese,” as I've been away for quite a long time. I can feel that when I talk to others or talk with clerks at shops, I sometimes feel that “I'm forgetting.”
- When do you feel most fulfilled while running cooking classes?
I feel most fulfilled personally when cooking moves someone’s heart. For example, I felt so happy when a female student told me that she reconciled with her father-in-law who used to not be on good terms with her, after she offered him food she learned to cook in this cooking class. I feel good when cooking affects human hearts in a good way, leading someone to show change in their character or life.
- You majored in linguistics, which has nothing in common with cooking. What made you later take an interest in cooking?
Although my father was a French chef, I always thought cooking was so difficult that I would never do it as a job. I taught Japanese at the Korea Military Academy. I later got married, had kids and raised them. When I went overseas or traveled to local regions, I always got interested in the food and in the dishes I was trying for the first time. I was so curious about new food. I cooked the food I ate when I came back home and fed it to my family. I then invited others to my home, which later became the cooking classes. I had both fun and delight, through cooking. I was more relaxed, too. I thought cooking was more fun than teaching Japanese.
- What was the first Korean dish you ever made? What's your favorite Korean dish that you enjoy cooking? On the contrary, are there any Korean dishes you find difficult to cook or to eat?
The first Korean dish I made was bajirak kalguksu or noodle soup with shellfish. I enjoyed the dish when I was pregnant with my first child. I cooked the dish at home, recalling the recipe from memory, and offered it to my father-in-law. My mother-in-law and husband told me later that he really loved it. When my family moved out from my in-law’s place, I tried to make a diverse range of food. I enjoyed making food that could go well with alcoholic beverages, similar to a Japan-style "Izakaya" bar. I like saengchae salad, made with oysters, radish and other raw vegetables, which people eat with bossam steamed pork, as it's a perfect match with Japanese sake. I personally love Korean food that we can't find in Japan. On the other hand, I don't cook galbijjim often because I can find similar dishes in Japan.
- Is there any Korean food you find most-suitable to represent the Korean people, or which is the most representative Korean food, in your view?
I reckon many people would think of bibimbap mixed rice, but I'm not sure about that. I don't think it would be bulgogi marinated beef either. The most representative Korean food could be samgyeopsal grilled pork belly. Many countries cook pork, in various ways, but I believe only Koreans grill the pork and wrap it in lettuce. When I think of Korean food, I feel like I want to have samgyeopsal. I prefer oyster salad with a spicy seasoning to kimchi. I love saengchae raw vegetable salad made with oysters caught naturally in the Yellow Sea.