Ancient recipes dating back to the 1700s, street food markets, visits to internationally renowned coworking spaces and leading companies in technological innovation
Bibimbap, a dish made of rice, vegetables, egg and meat is not just an icon of Korea, the sixth stop of the Food Innovation Global Mission (FIGM), the around-the-world tour for the 14 students of the Food Innovation Program second level Master. It is also the name and central theme of the first hackathon that took place in Bologna and Milan in 2014 organized by the Future Food Institute. Bibimbap, a dish that is made up of different ingredients that require diverse preparation and cooking times, was used as a model for the hackathon that aimed to transform people into ingredients and collaboration as cooking method, in order for the working groups to come up with innovative “dishes” and ideas. This hackathon was the Future Food Institute ecosystem’s first step towards the discovery of Korea and its traditions and innovations that deserve to be dispersed throughout the world. All of this is evidenced by the natural development of the Food Innovation Global Mission. Indeed, the spirit of this mission is to reinforce and increase the links between icons, protagonists and rituals of the food ecosystem around the world.
This leg also included two exceptional guides. After encountering a world-renown chef like Peter Klosse in the Netherlands, and two diplomats like the Consul General of Italy in San Francisco Lorenzo Ortona and his colleague in Osaka, Marco Lombardi, in Korea the delegation had the opportunity to visit the Italian Embassy in Seoul with a welcome from the Consul Marco della Seta who explained to the students how the Korean gastronomic traditions are increasingly opening up to the consumption of Italian products like coffee and dairy (watch the video here). After this first institutional introduction, the role of lead guide was handed off to Michael Lee, who, like Sara Roversi, is a member of the young entrepreneurs of G20 YEA but is also the founder of the YES Challenge 20. Together with the delegation, this true food hero introduced to some of the most important businesses in the country like CNT Tech, on of the most noted Korean online platforms for home food delivery that produces around 100 thousand meals a day.
The delegation went from big industry logistics and statistics, to the restaurant world and ended up with a study of local cuisine. Always thanks to Michael Lee as guide, the delegation arrived in the small village of Daejeon Musucheonha and was greeted by Yongkab Gown, descendent of the founder of the city. After a quick visit to see the cultivation of strawberries, mandarins, ginseng, green beans and schisandra (which is used to prepare a traditional tea called “omija”), the students of the Food Innovation Global Mission rolled up their sleeves and were put to work preparing gochujang, a hot sauce that accompanies most Korean dishes and whose history dates back to the 1700s. Used also as a natural medicine to strengthen the stomach and aid digestion, gochujang has been prepared in homes for hundreds of years. And it was exactly this challenge that the students undertook; measuring, mixing, and mincing by hand the many ingredients necessary for its preparation such as glutinous rice powder, hot pepper flakes, fermented soy and salt. The final product was left to rest in special terracotta jars.
It wasn’t just condiments that the students prepared, but also main meals, thanks to Yeonhyeok Ahn, a former participant in the Global Trep Training Program in 2015 that allowed a group of young Korean entrepreneurs to spend six months in Bologna with the goal of increasing their understanding of the food ecosystem and innovation through the lens of the Future Food Institute. Thanks to him, the students had the chance to prepare shabu shabu, another typical Korean dish made with different types of meat boiled in broth and dressed with hot sauce.
After having dirtied their hands in the kitchen with the preparation of typical dishes using local ingredients (true food icons of the Korean population), the delegation set out to discover various economic organizations of the country. With an introduction from Budher Song, the students were able to visit Inno Startup, a coworking space where innovative startups find a place to plan and strengthen their entrepreneurial horizons. Then, thanks to their introduction in California to the maker world through Sherry Huss (vice president of the Maker Faire), students were able to continue their discovery of this universe of digital artisans with a visit to Etri, a research institute for informational and communications technology that has been nurturing the innovation world of Korea since the ‘70s with the aim to create an “intelligent world” in which people, technology and the environment are united to create a more high-tech and interconnected life.
The common thread between all stages of the Food Innovation Global Mission has been the particular attention paid to universities around the world, and Korea was no exception. At the University of Yonsei in Seoul, one for the most prestigious in the country, the delegation participated in the International Food Forum organized by Michael Lee. During the conference, the world of food was explored from every point of view thanks to the many talks by international guests. Starting with ambassador Marco della Seta who talked about future business opportunities between Italy and Korea, and then a look into the entrepreneurial scope of “made in Silicon Valley” presented by Paolo Privitera, an Italian entrepreneur with years of experience in some of the most important global startup organizations such as H-Farm and Startup Chile. To conclude was an in-depth presentation on the Food Innovation Global Mission thanks to a talk by Sara Roversi, aided by the 14 students from around the world, an outstanding research group capable of sharing a current and genuine global perspective.
Finally, in continuing with visits to the typical markets of Asia as they already did during the Japan leg, the delegation toured Myeong-dong, a street food market that offered a wide range of tastes from kamaboko, a vibrantly colored dough made with fish, and even more particular fèngzhuǎ, the so-called “heels of the phoenix”, or more simply put, chicken feet.