Thursday, 4 June 2009

PEOPLE #13: Edward Kwon, the Senior Executive Sous Chef of the Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai

Some 350 global CEOs and political leaders attended the “Korea Night” event on January 29 in Davos, Switzerland, aimed at introducing Korean culture during the World Economic Forum. 19 Korean traditional foods were presented by Edward Kwon, the senior executive chef at the Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai.As head chef, he prepared a range of Korean-based dishes, but ‘with a modern twist’. They earned enthusiastic responses from several global notables present at the event.

The dishes served included a cold-plate recreation of Samgyetang, a traditional Korean chicken and ginseng soup, a mini-sized hamburger with Kimchi sauce and empanada using Dakgalbi, a Korean-style barbecued spicy chicken.

Who is Edward Kwon?
Edward Kwon is the senior executive sous chef of the Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai, known as the world’s only ‘seven star’ hotel. To have reached such a position – arguably the pinnacle for any chef - at the tender age of 36 (as he did 2 years ago) is a truly remarkable feat.He was born in Yeongwol, Gangwon-do in Korea. As a young man, strong (Catholic) parental influence pushed him towards priesthood, but his grandmother strongly opposed the idea as he was the only son in his family. Kwon decided to go to university but lacked direction and vision. He took a job as a kitchen helper in a Seoul restaurant as a means of funding his studies, and discovered his unexpected talent for cooking.He then chose to major in Hotel Culinary Art at Youngdong University.
An internship at the Ritz-Carlton Seoul Hotel led to him becoming the only one in his class to be selected for employment, as his abilities became increasingly apparent. Before landing a job at the Burj Al Arab he worked at various other hotels, including the Ritz Carlton in San Francisco and Sheraton Grand Hotel in Tianjin, China (in 2003 he was selected as one of the Best Ten Young Chefs by the American Culinary Federation.).

In April 2006 he was scouted as senior executive sous-chef for the Fairmount Dubai Hotel. He then seized the opportunity to become the executive chef at Burj Al Arab after several rounds of fierce competition with four other internationally acclaimed chefs. He supervises more than 400 staff, including three top deputy chefs and 260 specialized chefs from around the world. They make more than 1,000 dishes for six restaurants serving French, Italian, contemporary European, seafood and Asian cuisines.

However, Kwon rarely cooks himself because of being too busy supervising all the other chefs and creating menus that change quite often. When he does cook, the starting cost is £2,500. George W. Bush, Madonna and Tiger Woods have been among many satisfied clients to have sampled his cuisine.Kwon has been introducing Korean cuisine at the Burj Al Arab, believing strongly that it can be successfully globalized as ‘well-being’ food. He has recruited 21 Korean chefs from around the world to work under him.His dream is to become the next Jamie Oliver, and play a key role in the push to globalize Korean cuisine.By the age of 50 Kwon’s goal is to have opened a world-class cooking school in Korea, to rival Le Cordon Bleu or the Culinary Institute of America. He plans to train promising young chefs by offering them free education.

THE EAST will introduce his food philosophy and his vision about Korean food in issue 21 (source from, Chosun, The Korea times).

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