‘Godmother of Korean cuisine’ named ‘Asia’s Best Female Chef 2020’

February 21, 2020 - 4:41 PM
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Cho Hee-sook has been named Asia’s Best Female Chef for 2020. (Asia's 50 Best Restaurants/Facebook)

Cho Hee-sook, popularly known as the “Godmother of Korean cuisine,” has been hailed as this year’s Asia’s Best Female Chef by Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy, an influential group of leaders in Asian restaurant industry.

“The Best Female Chef award celebrates female chefs whose dedication, skills and creativity set new standards in gastronomic excellence,” William Drew, Director of Content of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, said.

“Cho Hee-sook epitomizes the spirit of this award with her lifelong commitment to advancing Korean cuisine through training, education and mentorship,” he added.

The Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy is composed of 300 leaders in the restaurant industry across Asia, who are selected for their expert opinion on the continent’s restaurant scene. This body also votes for the best restaurants in Asia since it was launched in 2013.

This takes voting in the following six regions:  India & Subcontinent; South-East Asia – South; South-East Asia – North; Hong Kong, Taiwan & Macau; mainland China & Korea; Japan.

Who is Chef Cho?

Dubbed “Chef of all Chefs” Chef Cho is a respected authority on the traditional Korean cuisine and a chef-owner of Hansikgonggan, a Michelin-starred Korean restaurant that specializes on royal court cuisine. She opened it in 2019.


At her small restaurant, the chef now focuses on reinventing Korean palace cuisine recipes for the 21st century.

Hansikgonggan is aptly described “as a great place to enjoy a meal while looking out over Changdeokgung Palace.”

Changdeokgung Palace, one of the most visited South Korean palaces, was the second royal villa built following the construction of Gyeongbukgung Palace in 1405.

It was recognized as a World Cultural Heritage site by the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Committee in December of 1997.

Arktisk Mat, an annual celebration of food culture and flavors in Mosjøen, Norway, described Cho as a “living legend of Korean cuisine.”

The organizers of the Norwegian events said the chef built her experience by leading the Korean food department at various hotels such as Novotel Gangnam, Grand Intercontinental, Hotel Silla. She also worked as an executive chef in the Embassy of South Korea in the US. She participated as a Korean representative in ‘Rising Asia’ by CIA.

With her expertise, the Korean chef legend has trained many junior chefs as a professor at Woosong University from 2006 to 2008.

She also worked as a food culture and researcher at Arumigi Foundation where “she started leading the globalization of Korean food to introduce ‘the taste of Korean food’.”

“For over 30 years, she has devoted her career to researching and developing Korean cuisine,” the Norwegian event organization said.

“Devoting her life to sharing in-depth knowledge of traditional Korean cuisine, Chef Cho has been a mentor and godmother to young chefs and paves the way for the future of Korean cuisine,” it added.

Cho would receive her award at the ceremony for Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2020 in Saga, Japan next month.

Aside from Cho, celebrated Japanese chef Yoshihiro Murata will also be awarded named prestigious American Express Icon Award 2020 in the same ceremony. The 300-member culinary experts also voted for to give the coveted award to chef Yoshihiro.

In 2019, the same body included Philippines’ Toyo Eatery in the continent’s 50 best restaurants list, where it ranked 43rd.

This restaurant was opened by Filipino chef Jordy Navarra in 2016. It is “founded on the philosophy of rediscovering national identity through the Philippines’ products, cuisine and culture.”

Toyo Eatery was also selected as Miele One To Watch in 2018.