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Title Cooking Duels between a German Star Chef and Korean Street Food Chefs
No 49 Inquiry 537 Date 2017.08.08

Recently, a series of cooking duels was aired in Germany. The duels were between star chef Bjorn Freitag and street food chefs who are most famous chefs in western Germany. The winner was the star chef; however, what was more impressive to me was that the counterpart chefs in two of the three duels selected Korean dishes for their competitions.

Freitag is a star chef who is active in the TV shows of the WDR (West German Broadcasting). He majored in culinary arts at university, and since 2000 he has appeared in various cooking programs and achieved renown. Hosting a variety of cooking shows at the German public broadcaster WDR, he has become a representative chef in the region. He currently operates a restaurant called Goldener Anker in Dorsten, North Rhine-Westphalia. His restaurant received a star from the Michelin Guide, at which time he was the youngest among those Michelin-starred German chefs.



German star chef Bjorn Freitag

In July, the WDR aired a show titled 'Bjorn Freitag's Street Food Duel (Björn Freitags Streetfood Duell)'. In this duel series, Freitag competed with three popular, creative street food chefs in the western region in turn at actual street food market events. The format of each duel was as follows: First, Freitag tastes the dish cooked by the street food chef. Here he finds the ingredients and recipes used for the dish, and actually makes the same dish at the event venue.

The program was broadcast every Friday for three weeks from July 7 (his family name Freitag means 'Friday' in German). Two out of the three street food restaurants that competed with him have attracted attention because they have Korean chefs or serve Korean food. The first duel menu was 'Korean BBQ Taco,' a fusion dish that merges Korean traditional bulgogi and kimchi with tacos, which is one of the specialties of the street food chain ReisBaby based in Dusseldorf. Florian Pfeufer, who operates the street food brand, has drawn attention by developing menus combining dishes from Asia and South America. ReisBaby has a high profile in the Düsseldorf region and its food is always popular at street food markets.

In the first duel, Freitag tastes the bulgogi taco and studies it. About the Kimchi in it, he makes a quite professional assessment, saying, 'It needs to ripen more.' Then he analyzes the ingredients and goes to buy them. The duel takes place at a street food market, and Freitag's bulgogi recipe is a bit different. He roasts meat first in a frying pan. When the surface of the meat is cooked, he puts the sauce and boils the meat down in it to make bulgogi. It is a little bit different from the traditional Korean recipe that seasons raw meat first and then boils it, but still, the dish's name is 'Korean BBQ Taco.' Since Kimchi cannot be made on the spot, he borrows it from the counterpart. Kimchi is used in a duel where no competitor is Korean.


Freitag and Gyeonga Maier from 'Gimbap Spot,' (top) and the “Rainbow Burgers” cooked in the duel (bottom).

The counterpart of the third duel is 'Gimbap Spot,' a Korean street food restaurant that is also based in the western part of Germany. This restaurant makes the colorful gimbap with only vegetables without meat and serves other various vegetarian foods. This restaurant has already been introduced in local media and is well-received in the region. The menu it choose in the competition with Freitag is “Rainbow Hamburger and Sweet Potato Fries.” The hamburger patty made from vegetables is truly unique. Freitag tastes these dishes and reproduces them at the venue of the street food market the next day. The jury is made up of local people who visit the street food market on the spot. They choose better dishes without knowing who cooked them. The result is the victory of the star chef by 9:4. He said that he cooked Korean food for the first time, but the selection of the menu leaves a little to be desired: the recipe and image of the vegetarian burger did not look like 100% Korean food.

However, it is quite remarkable that Korean dishes were introduced in two sessions of this three-session pilot series. The so-called 'tour-type street food event' has become popular in Germany. Here, Korean food now has a pretty 'hip' image. Freitag's TV show proves this.


※ Watch “Bjorn Freitag's Street Food Duel”:
- Korean BBQ taco:
- Gimbap Spot:


※ Photo source: WDR


* Yujin Lee, correspondent in Germany