Movie Review: “Le Grand Chef 2: Kimchi Battle”

Le Grand Chef 2: Kimchi Battle is a wonderful, complex and nuanced film about family, love, motherhood, restaurants, and of course, kimchi, a source of pride for the Korean people. It is in Korean with English subtitles. The plot revolves around a family with two grown step-siblings. Each has a very different perspective on life. The older sister, Jang-eun, is an award-winning chef, meticulous and driven. How meticulous? In one scene, she wants the finest quality sea salt but her normal salt seller doesn’t have any and tells her to go to the supermarket. Not satisfied with that answer, she goes to a dry seabed nearby and spends weeks digging holes and building an oven so she can make her own sea salt, the old-fashioned way.

The younger brother, Sung-chan is more down-to-earth, working as a produce distributor. His gifts are more instinctive and his knowledge of produce and kimchi is remarkable. The two wind up competing against each other head-to-head in a national kimchi championship.

And of course, the KIMCHI! The cooking scenes made me shoot up off the couch with excitement! Fast cuts were shown long enough to see the many different ways kimchi is prepared and celebrated. I also learned a lot about the traditions and history (mostly during the contest scenes) and found myself pausing to take notes. For example, did you know that white kimchi (not spicy) was made for many years before red peppers were introduced to Korea?

Along the way, you learn about familial relationships, mostly around mothers and their children. This metaphor is also expanded to the entire country. There is a nice interweaving of modern scenes with flashbacks to fill you in on the multiple plotlines. The scenery is beautiful. I’ve never been to Korea, but the film showcases its beautiful countryside.

I loved this movie! I will certainly watch it several more times to catch all the great food shots!

I recommend watching with a box of tissues to get you through the emotional scenes, and of course, a nice bowl of spicy kimchi. And be ready to call your mother after watching.

And lastly, here are some kimchi recipes when the inspiration strikes.

Available on Netflix instant streaming.

PS I don’t know what the first film in this series is about, but from what I’ve read, this is not truly a “sequel” in that this film doesn’t pick up where the first left off.

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