There are some 1,600 or so Korean restaurants in the U.S., mostly concentrated in large Korean ethnic enclaves in New York and Los Angeles, but only 293 of them or 18 percent have chefs with a Korean cooking certificate. That means the food in the remaining 1,300 restaurants is being made by people without credentials.
The situation is worse for the 2,032 Korean restaurants in China, where nearly 90 percent or 1,828 do not have cooks with a certificate. The dominant presence of Korean restaurants lacking expertise in major cities around the world is thought to be one of the factors hindering the globalization of Korean cuisine.
One indicator that shows Korean food lacks international appeal is that just one of 10 major international airports in the U.S. -- John F. Kennedy Airport in New York -- has a Korean restaurant. This was included in the government's marketing strategy study for the globalization of Korean cuisine obtained by the Chosun Ilbo on March 14.
The study was conducted last year by consulting firm Accenture for the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. After surveying 2,000 people in the U.S., China, Japan, and Vietnam on their preferences for various cuisines, it found the popularity of Korean food is very low among Americans, and that the globalization of the cuisine is still a distant dream.
◆ Large Number of Uncertified Restaurants
According to the study, 59 percent of Korean restaurants in the U.S. do not have certified cooks, and some 20 percent refused to give an answer and were deemed as uncertified. In China, just 9 percent said they have certified chefs and in Vietnam 35 percent said the have. Not only are there no standardized recipes for Korean cuisine, but only half of the restaurants use Korean-made seasonings and sauces, and only 3 to 10 percent use main ingredients produced in Korea.
Foreigners do not often choose Korean food, the study found. Among the restaurants in the U.S., 61 percent said that Korean customers make up over half of their guests, and over 20 percent said more than 90 percent of their clients are Korean Americans.
◆ Urgent Need for New Menus and Standardized Recipes
Experts say that the keys to promoting Korean cuisine to the world is the standardization of recipes and names, and the development of a new, simple-yet-tasty menu that can satisfy the tastes of foreigners, like Japan's sushi. The study proposed the introduction of a certification system for overseas Korean restaurants and called for measures to encourage them to use Korean-produced ingredients.