“Mama, Mama Mia!”: Pasta Episode 1

Posted on: February 7, 2010

The idea of a cooking programme marathon sending my heart racing and my blood sugar to an all-time high. Translate this to a Korean drama with Lee Sun Gyun and you have just sent me to adrenaline stroke.

Cue pasta of all sorts sloshing in a pan with a rather watery cream base. Sounds a little hard to stomach (especially if you are having the runs) but hey, I am no Italian chef nor a food critic. Therefore, my judgment is as good as nullified. Carrying on.

Yoo Kyung is see grabbing ingredients from shelves in a walk-in freezer and refrigerator, as it turns out she is a kitchen assistant preparing them for the chefs in the kitchen. Quite expectantly, she sees a couple making out in the fridge and shyly shoos them aside to retrieve a Froie Gras from a shelf they were blocking and promise them “not to tell”.

Pan to an extremely busy kitchen scene where the leading lady hurries from one sink to another stove top, washing dishes and replenishing the stock of clean pans for the chefs’ use. As it appears, she has been at it for years and multitask breezily. No fuss, at all.

Like clockwork, she ends the day by taking out the trash, bidding goodbye to her fellow kitchen staff and returning home. However, that day was less ordinary as it was her mom’s death anniversary. Cue the gender biased dad who tips over the mom’s altar over a smart move which was made by her daughter. Apparently he gets worked up over his wife’s smoking habits. Should we eye his moves and put that in our memory bank for further analysis? Hmmm.

The following day, she wakes up bright and early and switches on the tube to watch a cooking programme. I was initially fooled into thinking the programme host was no more than a califare, supplementing Yoo Kyung’s ambition and chef-in-training days. Those days are over.

As you know, with every leading couple comes a rivaling couple; portrayed by Kim San (Clazziquai”s Alex) and Sae Young (Honey Lee). As mentioned before, the programme host is none other than Sae Young (somewhat related to Hyun Wook, you will see). This is when I get romantically confused. Just who is flirting with who?

Kim San seems to bear some interest in Sae Young, but fleetingly flirting with Yoo Kyung. Until Kim San clarifies himself as nothing more than an Oppa to Yoo Kyung, I will refuse to cease doubting his intentions. (clears throat) Player…

Up to now, Sun Gyun has yet to make his acting debut.

Then Yoo Kyung makes a trip to the market to set her orders for the restaurant. She visits the usual egg seller but it appears that he is one profit-driven, scheming businessman. He swaps some jumbo eggs for smaller sized one but prices a tray of jumbo eggs the same anyway. Though Yoo Kyung is suspicious, she continues to insist on her usual order of jumbo eggs and proceeds to checkout.

At the checkout, 2 complimentary goldfishes are handed out for a purchase exceeding 10,ooo won or something. She hesitates but takes the free gift anyway.

Seconds later, viewers are treated to a glance of Hyun Wook. With tremors of excitement, I watch in anticipation. Pleased, oh-so pleased. 😀

Guess what? A clumsy act brought the 2 leads together! She dropped the bag of fishes, bursting it in the middle of a pedestrian crossing, blowing a damsel-in-distress moment wide open. Valiantly, our male lead swoops to her side instructing her to cup her hands while be scoops the 2 fishes into them and pour some mineral water from the bottle he just purchased scenes ago.

Remember guys. Buy mineral water to quench your thirst. Who knows? It may come in handy!

As she was carrying some grocery bags before the fish incident, transforming her hands into a makeshift fishbowl impaired her. Consequently, Mr Valiant offered to carry her groceries to its intended location.

Now this is when it gets teasingly racy. Picture a grown man getting all touchy-feely in looking for a set of keys on a lady and still in a process of doing so, becomes pointedly flirty. Well, all I can say is that with Lee, anything is possible. Squee!

“Where is La Sfera?” he quips. Unknowingly, he just opened the back door to the restaurant in question. Why he needs to be there? He does not say. However, Yoo Kyung takes everything for granted and assumes he is the new kitchen assistant the eatery is hiring. I sense something fishy going on… (no pun intended)

Simultaneously, the president of the restaurant promptly fires the head chef, Chef Totti. He is a very displeased man. He vows the cliched, “This place will not do without me” and flashes the “Just you wait and see” glare. Manager coolly shrugs the matter off.

In place, he has hired Hyun Wook who has a stint in Italy and knows a thing or two about the cuisine to a native chef. Ah, what a pleasant cost-cutting measure. Getting a local chef with an experience equal to a native chef with a lower pay. Or so it seems too good to be true…

Meanwhile, Yoo Kyung unabashedly dismisses Hyun Wook as a kitchen assistant, teaching him proper kitchen etiquette . She sure knows how to put on airs. Though I knew the whole embarrassing situation where she will realise he is the new chef was coming, she subtly flirting with him while he does it openly brings a refreshing palate to their developing romance.

I mean, most couples have the dominant flirt which breaks the ice every single time. This apparent role can get rather conventional and predictable whereas this, this is one to watch. Ahem, more flirting later…

Yoo Kyung arrives at the door with Hyun Wook and they part ways. Before so, he declares that the goldfishes do not belong in the kitchen. Why? Because they are females. Is that a prophecy? (Scary organ music plays)

Yoo Kyung innocence and blatant determination to work towards her aspiration soars in her characterisation, which draws away any of the bad mojo Hyun Wook is emitting. This is shown when Hyun Wook makes his true debut entrance as the new head chef, replacing Totti.

“Ah, cute. He is so handsome…” The women in the kitchen gushed. The first day at work and he is already laying on the charm on top of more smoothly executed allure. The women continue to pile on praise after swoon after praise. He could be easy to work with. Or so you think.

The second day arrived and the ladies doll up by the stove top. The men sneered. Is he that much of saint? Well, 10 minutes into the first order and he rears his ugly head. “This salad is too tall! This pasta is too oily! This antipasto, you got to be kidding me! Your pay is to be docked for wasting so much lobster!” Whack, whack, whack. Slam, crash and burn. Everyone went home with dirty aprons. All except Yoo Kyung. Could he be treating her specially? Eh.

Just when she avoided all his lines of fire in the day, she made a side misstep and tossed a large mixing bowl of ice cubes in the air and into the deep fryer. Every staff ducked for cover while Hyun Wook in another valiant act, shielded her from the oil splatter shower.

Day-end wrap-up: All the chefs and a kitchen assistant gather in the restaurant, awaiting the head chef’s arrival. One by one, he chews out the ladies (if you realise, the line-ups are split according to gender). You, crossed a customer despite your personal incompetency. You, shamelessly brought your relationship to work. You, spoke back. You, fused ice and oil together. All, fired!

Desperately, the female staff who was caught romancing in the chiller compartment begged to have her boyfriend’s title restored. If it were not for her, he would not be tempted. “Okay,” He coolly agreed. Gender bias? Hard to tell. The man simply could not stand having women in the kitchen. (As he so proves by their condemning clumsy or irrational acts of the day.) Could be a personal vendetta.

Only flashbacks will tell.

Subsequently, Hyun Kyung made it for his 11pm date by the same pedestrian crossing where they first met. She cannot believe he is asking her out despite firing her minutes ago. Is he out of his mind? She wavered and grew resistant to his first moves. Eventually, he ignores her and goes his own way.

This series is crafty in its own way.

Uh, to add, noisy too. Less yelling in the next episode?


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