Huh Young-man (Heo Yeong-nam), one of the most celebrated comic strip artists in Korea, began to serialize "Le Grand Chef
" (Sikgaek) in a major daily in September 2002. A dramatic portrayal of a young, aspiring Korean cook, coupled with delicate sketches of various foods, appealed strongly to readers.
The series was published into several books, and some 540,000 copies have been sold so far. Huh's now famous graphic novel is also available on the internet, attracting 400,000 hits a day. Moviemakers never miss such an interesting work, and "Le Grand Chef
" is now being produced as a feature film.
Its production staff and actors are upbeat because comic artist Huh's another series "Tazza: The High Rollers
" (Tazza), was recently adapted into a tantalizing gambling box-office hit that sold more than 6 million tickets.
"The success of 'Tazza: The High Rollers
' is good news for us, but I also feel some pressure", said director Jeon Yoon-soo
who took the helm of the "Le Grand Chef
" project at a news conference in Yongin, south of Seoul, on Wednesday.
Prior to the news briefing, director Jun was filming a scene where Seong-chan (Kim Kang-woo
) and Bong-ju (Im Won-hee
) were confronting each other at a cooking contest. Since the film was primarily concerned about cooking and the two characters were competing in a contest, real cooks were busy making various 'real' foods for the scene in the corner.
"Le Grand Chef
" revolves around the conflict between Seong-chan and Bong-ju - longtime rivals intent on staying ahead in the competition. Five years before, the two were working together at Yunamjeong, a famous Korean restaurant.
To succeed the restaurant's owner, the two fought each other at a lethal inhouse contest. For some unknown reason, those who tasted Seong-chan's swellfish got poisoned, and Bong-ju grabbed the much-coveted 'best cook' spot at the restaurant.
The scene shot on Wednesday is set in the present: Seong-chan and Bong-ju meets again at a national cooking contest, a crucial opportunity for the warm-hearted and talented Seong-chan to prove his talent against the cold-hearted and vicious Bong-ju.
And the drama is heightened due to Jin-su (Lee Ha-na
), a beautiful television producer who is covering the contest to uncover a mystery hidden behind the colorful event.
, who plays the main character, said the main cast have been practicing cooking to act more realistically. "I have attended a cooking class for one and a half months and I have learned new tricks. But I cannot do my part without the help of cooking experts because the film covers a wide range of high-quality dishes all the time".
Lim Won-hee said his role - Bong-ju - is also based on solid cooking skills, so it's tough even with help from experts. "I receive instructions and tips from those who have been cooking for 10 years to 20 years. But even after I practiced a certain sequence, many times, I made mistakes in the actual shooting. It's really tough", he said.
, who made a silver screen debut through "Le Grand Chef
", remained cheerful - her trademark characteristic demonstrated in a popular television drama which was well received in the first half of this year.
"I just love working with other cast members for this movie because I can travel to new places. Unlike a television drama, I visit different places in the course of filmmaking, and sometimes I think I'm just having fun", Lee said.
Since Lee takes the role of a television producer, she has learned how to handle cameras in order not to look amateurish. "I learned the basic camera skills from video journalists at SBS station for this film", she said.
Director Jeon said the movie version has incorporated some new subplots to amplify the dramatic element of the original comic series. "There are many new scenes which are not in the comic series, and we believe such scenes will meet the expectations of the audience", he said.