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Monday, October 4th 2010

9:00 PM

LG Life Tastes Good Championship in Seoul, South Korea

As I organized these pictures and tried to adequately describe my experience at the LG Life Tastes Good Championship in Seoul, South Korea, I realized these images and words simply do not do justice to the memories that I hold in my heart.  And, some things cannot be articulated:  New friendships that were made, personal goals that were met, the thrill and excitement when you hear your name and "representing the United States of America" in the same sentence, feeling the love and excitement of friends and family rooting for you to succeed…

I'll start at the beginning--if you missed the post about the US contest that I won to qualify me for this global event, this link will catch you up to speed!  LG Life Tastes Good US event in Beverly Hills, California.

The LG USA team, Jennifer, Katy, Ellis, and John have all been a fantastic group of people to work with and they worked tirelessly to provide me with a once in a lifetime experience.

From start to finish, here's an actual video link to the event.  It's worth watching the beginning introduction--it made me feel like I was at the Olympics!  LG Life Tastes Good Championship in Seoul, South Korea.  It was an amazing achievement that encompassed 6 continents and 22 countries.  LG put on a wonderful production that was part cooking show, part cooking contest, part promotion, and a whole lot of fun!

Our flight to Seoul was on Korean Air. 

Thanks to LG USA, we flew in Business Class which made the 14 hour flight enjoyable.  Each seat was an individual "pod" that reclined almost totally flat.  The seat in front never moved so personal space wasn't compromised.

We were in the upper deck of a 747 and the service was impeccable!  Two meals and several snacks and movies later, we began our decent into Seoul.

I was struck how clean and new the airport seemed and everyone was helpful and friendly.

I felt like I had stepped into the land of "nice!"  It could have been the jet lag but something told me we weren't in Philadelphia anymore!  And even though I was smuggling in some of the ingredients for my recipe (a friend referred to me as a "culinary mule!"), we made it through customs a little jet lagged but excited to start this amazing adventure.  The exterior looked oddly familiar to me.

After a 45 minute ride to the hotel, we arrived at Grand Hilton Seoul...

...and Convention Center where the contest would be held.

Signs about the event lined the drive--I knew at that moment this was going to be bigger than I had imagined.

After we got settled into the room, I noticed this perfectly raked peaceful rock garden on top of the roof below.

Monday, September 27, 2010.

The first evening, we had the opportunity to see the contest space for the first time.  Though it was a work in progress, it was stunning!  Crisp and high tech!  The thousands and thousands of dollars in Le Creuset colorfully dotting each work space didn't go unnoticed by me.

Also, each work space was designated by each finalist's national flag...

...and additional information.

That night we also had the opportunity to see some of our ingredients for the first time...

...and discuss our needs and concerns with the Chef Judges.

Also, CNN continued their coverage of the event.  They were at the cook-off in Beverly Hills and I was delighted to see some familiar faces--they couldn't have been nicer!  I learned that the event will air in October on CNN International and The Travel Channel.  Tiffany Winter of CNN is here with team USA since the UK didn't send a finalist.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010.

After a good night's sleep, it was time for orientation!  We received our chef's whites--it was the equivalent of cap and gown on graduation day!

Also that day, I was assigned an interpreter!  Sunny Yoo couldn't have been friendlier or more helpful!  She even wrote down notes for me about my oven which was in Korean--sort of important to know how to use your appliances in a cooking contest, don't you think?!?  She was an angel and took great care of me for 2 days.  LG was wonderful to provide this service and even during the dinners, devises were on the tables so guests could listen to the event via live translation.  I felt like I was at the United Nations!

We rehearsed a few things for the evening's event as well as for contest day and had out final ingredient check.

That evening, we were treated to a Gala Dinner.  The feast was the suggested menu for the G20 Summit to be held in Seoul in November.  Chef Edward Kwon's creations were beautiful and tasty!

Sam Gye Tang Ballontine
Jujube, White Cabbage Kimchi, Ginseng Apple Foam, Garlic Tuile, Black Sesame Seeds

New Edge of Hae Mul Naeng Chae
Yabbi, Scallop with Bean Sprouts, Cucumber, Pear, Tangerine, Korean Wasabi Vinaigrette

Soy Braised Beef Short Rib
Forrest Mushroom Ragout, Potato Gnocchi, Spring Onion, Bacon Kimchi Chutney, Puffed Rice

Soo Jung Gua Shooter
Cold Persimmon Ginger Veloute with Candied Pine Nuts and Ginger-Cinnamon/Honey Espuma

Pat Bing Soo
Red Bean Ice Cream, Bok Bun Ja Gelee, Sticky Rice Cake, Milk Granita

The evening also provided us with a glimpse into Korean culture through dance and music.

Before we left, there were a few more interviews.  Here, South African television grabbed me for a few quick questions.

Earlier in the day, 5 of us were selected to represent the group accepting the challenge as Ambassadors to help introduce Korean cuisine to the world.  I was presented the award by the Mayor of Seoul City.  Complete with a bouquet of beautiful flowers and certificate in hand, it was time for bed!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010.

Game day!

The venue was sparkling!  LG had their product line front and center.

And, there was a red carpet!

Team North America was ready for some fun!  The fabulous Bonnie Young of Canada made this event special for me and I couldn't imagine it without her.  The entire Team Canada took me under their wing since the US had no reps there.  A special thank to Frank Lee of LG Canada and Colleen Tully of Canadian Living, the sponsor of the LG Canada event, for being so gracious to this lonely American!

News Flash...  It turns out in the events leading up to this Global Competition, there were different rules for each country:  Some were professionals, some in culinary school, some were teams of 2--but even with these obstacles, I was determined to have a great time and simply do my personal best.  While some may have shown up with more skills and techniques than I have, what they didn't have was my passion and excitement for representing the USA to the best of my abilities and to enjoy each and every moment of this exciting event.

The venue was stunning!

The hosts did a fantastic job--Korea's own pop star and TV personality.

When it was my turn, the American flag flashed across the screen...

...and then my recipe.

I then took my place at my work station...

... to wait for the clock to start!

Next, it was time to cook!  Oddly, I wasn't the least little bit nervous--I was, however, determined to enjoy every moment of this and have no regrets when it was over.  It was a whirlwind from the beginning with all of the media and cameras.  But, I had learned my lesson back at the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest in April and just blocked everything out.  After all, I had bigger concerns--like figuring out the Korean instructions on the appliances!

I did take a moment to take a picture of the media near my station--it was crazy!

All of the finalists were busy at work.  I have to admit that at one point I really wished I was a team of 2!

Meat grilling...

Salad tossing...

Time to plate!

With 3:30 minutes left on the clock, I was finished!  I had a blast and was happy with the food I produced.  While there were more elaborate dishes, mine was real food--full of flavor and not intimidating.  I was proud that I accomplished what I had set out to do.

Time for judging...

The score sheet:

At each dish, there were setups with utensils and water for the judges.

Then, one by one, the judges stopped by for a sample.  Chef Kwon loved my dish and said he thought I should open my own restaurant!  As head chef of the Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai--the world's only "seven star" hotel--I'll take that as a compliment!

Known as Iran's Martha Stewart, Chef Sanaz Manaie has her own television show and magazine, and has published numerous books.

Here, she says to me that she loves it and asks what's in the marinade.  Coming from the land of kabobs, that's a HUGE compliment!  Earlier in the contest, she stopped by and tasted my vinaigrette.

Next to stop by was Guy Martin of France.  Can you say 3 Michelin Stars?!?  He has more than a dozen cookbooks.  He was kind and quiet and difficult to read...

In total, there were 8 LG executives and 4 world renowned chefs who served as judges for this event.  While the score sheets were tallied, time for more interviews!

The media was in place in front of the display dishes and stage awaiting the announcement.

Then, it was time to announce the winners!  I think I was stunned at this point--having seen some amazing creations, I didn't think I stood a chance.  But, when my name was called, I just hoped it wasn't for the "Biggest Loser" award!

It turns out that I had won the "Infinite Taste of Seoul" Award.  Besides the big prize, I would have picked this prize if given the choice.  It encompassed the theme of this experience and was presented by the City of Seoul--it truly has special meaning for me.

After each award was presented, I realized what a lucky guy I am!

After the winners were announced, all of the finalists were invited on stage for a photo op.  I'm in the front row by the LG President.  It's a little too late at that point to ask for my oven to be converted to English, I guess...

My award weighs about 10 pounds! 

I was presented with a set of exquisite fine bone china from the City of Seoul.  From Korea's own Hankook Chinaware, these pieces are beautiful.

Here I am with Chef Franck Bruwier of Le Cordon Bleu.  He told me he thought I had won...  He was amazingly helpful--nice, thoughtful chef.  He fought to get me the best watercress available in Korea!

Chef Gissur Gudmundsson is President of the prestigious World Association of Chefs' Societies.  He was full of helpful info and wanted us all to do our best.

The awesome Chef Edward Kwon!

The wonderful Caroline Boutoille of France, who cooked "Barbecued Pork Tenderloin with Rosemary, Mashed Cauliflower and Broccoli Meal, Frozen Vegetables, Red Pepper Emulsion" won the LG Global Grand Master Chef Prize.  I had the pleasure of spending 2 days with Caroline and I am thrilled that she won this!  A special lady that I am happy to call friend.

Before the evening was over, I had one last interview with the CNN team.  Adam Woods and Tiffany Winter were fantastic and it was a pleasure to meet them both--great ambassadors for journalists worldwide!

My friend Yelena Lim captured photos of many of the finalists and their amazing dishes.  Check them out by clicking here...

When we returned home, I was greeted by an article in my local newspaper, the Reading Eagle.

My mug was on the front page!!

The article was in the Life section--almost a full page...

...and was continued on the next page.  Susan Shelly of the Reading Eagle did a fantastic job and it was a nice homecoming surprise!  Thanks Susan!

Here's a follow-up article that appeared the following week.

The next installment will include a recap of our time in the beautiful City of Seoul.

A special thank you to Rich for taking all of these pictures, for being a sherpa, and an all around great sport as I live this adventure...
12 Comment(s).

Posted by Sunny:

Brett! I am flattered. It was an amazing time for me,too: ) I am sooo lucky to meet you and Rich! I love all the beautiful pics. Please keep in touch!
Friday, October 8th 2010 @ 8:47 AM

Posted by Anonymous:

Oh, honey, that's wonderful. Thank you so much for taking the time and energy to put this blog entry together so we could see your experience. Thanks to Rich for the photos, too. He did a great job. I can't believe he caught the expression on your face just as they announced your name! Just wonderful.

Rock garden? Perfectly raked? You'll have to have one! :)
Wednesday, October 6th 2010 @ 7:50 AM

Posted by Karla Miller:

Brett... hearing your story put to pictures and then reading the narratives was wonderful... I too like the red carpet shot of you.. Rich did a great job as the photographer, as usual,, and i felt like i was there with you all the way. Not only a fantastic and accomplished and awarded chef,, but a talented writer as well.. Thanks Brett.. and i look forward to your next adventure..
Wednesday, October 6th 2010 @ 4:52 AM

Posted by JoAnn Belack:

Brett, you are now officially a food celebrity!!! I loved the pix of you on the red carpet, and yes, Rich did a fantastic job with all the photography. That was truly an experience of a lifetime, but oops, you have had several of those in a row!!! what a year you have had.....thank you for sharing all your special times!!
Tuesday, October 5th 2010 @ 7:27 PM

Posted by Debbie Reid:

Brett, thanks so much for sharing your experience (I look forward for more installments!). Wow!! What a wonderful experience and opportunity for you. I am sure you will remember it the rest of your life. You did a great job and should be very proud of yourself! Definitely a once in a lifetime cooking contest!
Tuesday, October 5th 2010 @ 5:13 PM

Posted by Ronna Farley:

I am in awe of all of this! Words can't describe what an accomplishment this has been for you, Brett! Congratulations!
Tuesday, October 5th 2010 @ 1:22 PM

Posted by Michelle Gauer:

Wow! Fantastic Brett...what an experience! So happy for you. :)
Tuesday, October 5th 2010 @ 11:44 AM

Posted by Kathy Langnehs:

So proud of you Brett! Thanks for taking the time to do this, I can just FEEL the excitement in your post!
Tuesday, October 5th 2010 @ 7:19 AM

Posted by Caro:

Un grand bravo à toi Brett... et j'espère que nos vies se croiseront de nouveau un jour. J'ai été ravie de faire ta connaissance et je souhaite notre nouvelle amitié durable. Je crois que plus que tout, c'est ça le plus beau cadeau que LG nous a fait : nous permettre de rencontrer des gens du monde entier et de partager notre passion commune pour la cuisine !

Congratulations to you Brett ... and I hope our lives will cross again someday. I was delighted to meet you and I hope our new friendship. I think more than anything, that's the best gift that LG has given us: that we can meet people from around the world and share our common passion for cooking!
Tuesday, October 5th 2010 @ 7:05 AM

Posted by Patricia:

Simply FABULOUS!!:)
Tuesday, October 5th 2010 @ 6:02 AM

Posted by Laurie Lufkin:

This is a wonderful recap Brett--thank you so much and congratulations!!:)
Tuesday, October 5th 2010 @ 5:46 AM

Posted by Bonnie Young:

You deserved every moment of this victory Brett!! I am truly lucky to have met you in Seoul...and look forward to years of friendship to come! You are the BEST!!!!
Tuesday, October 5th 2010 @ 5:26 AM

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