The first World Food Festival hosted by the World Culinary Culture Exchange Association and supported by The Korea Post media was held at the Gwanghwamun Square in front of the Central Government Building Complex in Seoul on May 30, 2017 with the attendance of many government and civic figures from all walks of life—as well as ambassadors and other senior diplomats.
A total of nearly 40 different countries of the world participated in the Festival with national food booths where were put on display and served a wide variety of national foods and beverage.
At the opening ceremony on the stage, there were various cultural performances which included a colorful Hanbok Korean traditional costume parade and a wooden Jangseung (Korean totem) carving performance.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Chairperson Ryoo Hyun-mi said, “We may not be able to communicate with one another among the different peoples of the world but we can do so through the medium of food and beverage.” Then she said, “Taking this opportunity, I would like to express my profound gratitude to all the ambassadors and other senior diplomats with madams
who took time out their busy schedule to grace this Festival with their wonderful food and beverage at their national booths.” Then came a congratulatory speech by Ambassador Raul S. Hernandez of the Philippines in Seoul.
Ambassador Hernandez said, “Through their hard work and initiative, we would all not just be able to sample the myriad of mouth-watering international dishes available in this historic site in the center of downtown Seoul, but also give our countries the opportunity to promote our unique culinary culture.”
Then he stated: “It is said that food feeds the soul and that every dish is a reflection of our country’s norms, values, history, and traditions. It plays a role in constructing and shaping our identities – how geographical attributes and the historical evolution of cuisines, whether local or regional, help in the formation of a national identity.” See excerpts from his speech at the end of this report.
Then came remarks by Chairman Maeng Joo-suk of the Organizing Committee of the Festival. He said, “From time immemorial, people shared and exchanged food and beverage with one another regardless of difference in race and creed. Today, I hope all the participants at this Festival will enjoy the opportunity to share the different foods, relish them, especially the Korean ginseng, and everyone will take back home a fond memory from the many interesting events at the Festival.”
After the opening ceremony and norming events, all the participating ambassadors, other senior diplomats and madams—as well as the Korean dignitaries--were invited to a luncheon at the Dining Hall of the Sejong Cultural Center.
Cooking show, traditional performing artists add to lively atmosphere at Festival
Beginning at 2 p.m. that day, there was a cooking show participated in by Star Chefs Lee San-ho, Cha Min-uk and Shin So-young. They made a wide variety of foods using vegetables and fruits such as water melons, which included Chobap (Sushi).
So-cooked foods were made available to the visiting guests for reasonable prices and they naturally attracted the attention of many visitors. The cooking show was broadcast live to the entire world as well as to the Korean audience through Youtube.
Highlights of the Festival that day included the presentation of prizes to the winners. Theme of the cooking competition was ‘Food and Ginseng’ and all the participants cooked their own national foods using the Korean ginseng. ‘Chefs’ from over 30 different countries took part in the contest.
The Top Prize went to the contestants from Paraguay, the First Prize to those from Thailand, the Second-place winner was from Italy, and the Third-place winner was represented Tunisia.
The cooking contest was followed by presentation of traditional performing arts, which included the traditional African dance presented by representatives of Ghana and Kenya, who were accorded keen attention from the audience.
Performers from Peru presented music through the use of traditional Peruvian musical instruments as well as singers who were accorded enthusiastic applauses from the audience for the three numbers they presented.
Then there were traditional dances presented by performers from Bolivia, Paraguay and South Africa, who were all accorded enthusiastic applauses from the audience.
Excerpts from the speech of Ambassador Hernandez of the Philippines:
Good morning. Foremost, allow me to bid all of you Hwanyeong hamnida, or welcome, to this year’s World Cooking Festival. I am indeed pleased to join you all this year for this celebration of distinct flavors and cultural fusion.
I would also like to thank the main organizers of this event, the World Culinary Culture Exchange Association, led by Chairwoman Ryoo Hyun Mi, for their effort in organizing this special event. Through their hard work and initiative, we would all not just be able to sample the myriad of mouth-watering international dishes available in this historic site in the center of downtown Seoul, but also give our countries the opportunity to promote our unique culinary culture.
It is said that food feeds the soul and that every dish is a reflection of our country’s norms, values, history, and traditions. It plays a role in constructing and shaping our identities – how geographical attributes and the historical evolution of cuisines, whether local or regional, help in the formation of a national identity
For instance, here in South Korea, food is a symbolism of Korean culture in terms of aesthetics and of harmonization, patience, care, and beauty. In the Philippines, our food is reflective of our diverse geography and of our long colonial history which translate to indigenous resources and cooking methods.
But regardless of how diverse our cuisines are, and the meaning they represent, food is indubitably the single great unifier across cultures – promoting social cohesion and bridging gaps among peoples.
Today’s culinary festival aims to do just that – providing a platform for showcasing the diverse cuisines and local cooking techniques while giving the local and foreign audience not just a glimpse but also an understanding and appreciation of each country’s long heritage, distinctive traditions, and inimitable cultures.
Many of you may have been drawn to this festival to pursue the epicurean pleasure of gastronomy - and I can very well understand that - but I hope that we use the experience to further ties of friendship and mutual respect through culture and the arts for indeed, culture is richer when it is shared.
Again, I wish, on behalf of everyone present here today, to thank and congratulate the organizers of this year’s World Cooking Festival and all those who have made this festival possible. I wish all of you success during this important event and may the festival achieve its objectives.