A mix of Western flavors and Korean cuisine can create world-class fusion food, according to Duncan Robertson, a British chef who came to Seoul last year. Robertson (33) is the head chef at N Grill, the revolving restaurant on the top floor of the N Seoul Tower in Mt. Nam.
Robertson was introduced to the Korean cuisine when he came to Korea with his 32-year-old Korean girlfriend in November last year and now has a Michelin star. "There are two restaurants, one in Sogong-dong and one in Sinsa-dong in Seoul, that can compete with any restaurant abroad in the Michelin Guide, and I can't forget the taste of rich bone broth and diced radish kimchi made by my girlfriend's mother. "I don't know how to describe the taste, but I could feel such warmth from the food. That's what real food is all about," he says.
His girlfriend is also a chef at N Grill. Both of them plan to develop various recipes to promote Korean food, but for the time being their goal is to earn a star for N Grill from the Korean edition of the Michelin Guide.
Robertson went to Harrow School, the exclusive private school in England, and Cambridge University. His father wanted him to become a lawyer, but he did not find Cambridge congenial. Instead, he decided to become a chef, and took cooking classes at Westminster Kingsway College in London. Then he went on to work in for the three-star restaurant The Fat Duck in Ireland, and for legendary restaurateur Joël Robuchon in Paris.
With his girlfriend, whom he met in Paris, he worked in an obscure restaurant called L'envie in the small French town of Brive, and it won a Michelin star. The Michelin Guide rates restaurants with five forks and three stars, and out of 20,000 premium restaurants in Paris, only 64 have one or more stars.
"I came to Seoul because I wanted to be close to my girlfriend's hometown and I wanted to get to know the place. I feel that people in Seoul are friendlier and more vivacious than in Tokyo and Shanghai," he says.
For high-quality ingredients, he often visits the Noryangjin Fish Market and Garak Market. "I strive to make food that brings inspiration and stimulates feelings, not just something that tastes nice. I try to handle each ingredient with passion, delicacy, and affection. That's how you can bring out the true flavors."