Food as Art in Cafe Seoul.
Cafe Seoul is a movie where Jun, a Japanese freelance reporter, gets involved by chance in the story of a traditional-style Korean bakery named “Morandang”. The bakery has been running for decades in the same neighborhood; Jun helps this family business to save the shop and further helps to tie the family together again. He achieved this by bringing back one of the siblings, a musician going through a crisis for he has recently discovered that he is deaf in one of his ears.
Artist, Studio and Artwork.
In the movie the chef’s work is comparable to the work of an artist; the chef works in his studio (bakery) developing aesthetically meaningful artwork (pastries).
The pastries sold in Morandang are beautifully made and the movie places a strong emphasis on the presentation of them on the screen, showing how they are aesthetically pleasing in the way that they look and taste. The final pastries and their preparation are often shown with a sharp focus and macro close-up, highlighting how beautiful they are. In the image (to the right) it is interesting to see how detailed the pastries look. We can see the dedication and delicacy of the artist applying the details to the piece of fine art. The previous image of the store displays the different kinds of pastries produced in the bakery; they are very well presented, like they are a part of an art exhibition. the artist carefully curates what is going to be presented and the way is going to be exhibited, so it attracts the viewer first visually waiting to be bought and reach them by stimulating other senses.
An artist needs to be trained; and Sanghyoku is trained by Sangwoo not only in the art of the traditional Korean baking, to which he is already accustomed, but also in the specific style and presentation traditionally associated with Morandang.
Aesthetics of Tradition.
This traditional bakery often brings the same customers over and over again and they regularly select the same pastries every time they go. The most regular neighbor of the store, an elderly lady, who is also considered a family member, says at the beginning, “I’ve know this store since the grandparents of Sangwoo, the taste of this pastry reminds me of my childhood”. This is something that Sangyoku and Sangwoo had wanted to achieve through the “training” mentioned above.
Tradition, emotion and memory. This triad is what led to Sanghyoku and Morandang to win the game against his younger sibling. Even though most of the pastries presented by Sungjin where better looking than Sanghyoku’s and the taste seemed to be preferred by the judge, the strong memories brought back by the taste were what eventually determined which Morandang would survive. The aim of Morandang is to create pieces of art that awake strong emotions in the viewer; but the only thing actually present in the pastry is its flavor. The sense of taste the viewer gages and their personal experiences is what makes the piece of art to be perceived as meaningful as it is.