Indeed, Park views the opening of Jungsikdang in 2009 as a turning point, the beginning of a period of introspection by Korean chefs where they grappled with defining the essence, the culture and philosophy of the cuisine. “There is still much to be discovered, progress to be made, but compared to even just the last two decades, the public perception or simply awareness of Korean cuisine has hugely progressed,” he says.
While Jungsikdang’s ethos was to apply the influences of European fine dining culture to create New Korean cuisine, the cooking at Atomix looks to highlight “what is inherent and unique to Korea; the holistic essence of Korean cuisine and its food culture”. To this end, Park says, “I incorporated as many essential Korean techniques, ingredients and [elements of] culture as possible. The names of Korean ingredients were spelled as is, and through our restaurant I was honoured to (and thought of it as essential to) showcase the works of many Korean artisans, ranging from food artisans to ceramicists.”
According to Park, the new inward focus among Korean chefs and restaurants is here to stay, and if Atomix has its way, it will lead to a flourishing in the diversity of Korean cuisine as more and more non-Koreans take their lessons from the tenets of K-cuisine and apply them in their own manner. “Of course, I don’t think that every person [working at Atomix] will commit their professional paths to Korean cuisine; but naturally, Korean cuisine—its culture, ingredients, techniques—will become a part of their toolkit to apply or pull inspiration from. From where I am, I will also work and study hard to define what my Korean cuisine will evolve into in the future.”
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