8.The Chemistry Behind Cooking (4)

“Madam Hong, why are you so picky?”

Team Leader Kim Gwang-sik stood at the entrance of the kitchen, feeling restless.

“They said all we need to do is cook.
PD Yang Ban said so.”

Hong Ji-suk, who was rinsing the somyeon noodles in cold water, turned her head.
Team Leader Kim flinched at her cold gaze.

“Isn’t it just a filming? They said they would only shoot the banquet, but now it’s become some kind of competition.
How bothersome.”

“They’re giving away prizes too.
It’s a Lunar New Year special.”

“That’s right.
If it weren’t for you, Ji-suk unni, there wouldn’t be anyone else to do it.”

Madam Im Geum-hee, the chairwoman of the women’s association, who was cutting kimchi, interjected.

“Why don’t I do it quickly? Team Leader, you know my cooking skills.”

“Well, I know.
Last time Madam Im’s sundubu jjigae wasn’t fit for human consumption…”

As Madam Im gave him a stern look, Team Leader Kim cleared his throat and spoke to Hong Ji-suk.

“They said winning or losing isn’t important, so just do it without pressure.”

“Don’t you see this cast? I don’t know what kind of TV appearance is going to be on when he’s injured.”

Team Leader Kim’s expression became speechless.
He only licked his lips and had a desperate face.

Noticing this, Hong Ji-suk gently handed a bowl of somyeon noodles to Madam Im Geum-hee and whispered.

“Team Leader, think about having our monthly gathering at our restaurant.”

“But we had it there last month too.
This time, Park and Lee suggested going to restaurant in the market…”

“Please don’t say you don’t want to.”

“Ah, Madam Hong.
Who said I don’t want to? Why are you so sharp-tongued today?”

Team Leader Kim nodded as if he couldn’t bear it.

“What’s the big deal? I’m not the type to speak one way and act differently after one bite, you know?”

“Can we just cook any dish?”

“Well, if we do well on the broadcast this time, it will spread good rumors in the neighborhood, and property values will rise.”

“Where do you see property values rising in a neighborhood that’s falling apart?”


As the front door opened, Team Leader Kim’s eldest son shouted from the other side of the living room.

“Father! The writer from the broadcasting station is here!”

“Already? Take them to the second-floor office! I’ll be there soon.”

Team Leader Kim turned his head towards Hong Ji-suk.

“So, Madam Hong, that means you agreed!”

While Yoon Yi-seol was catching her breath in place after climbing up the hill, Jeong-woo approached her from the side.

“It’s tough, isn’t it? We’ve arrived.”

Yoon Yi-seol’s gaze lingered on the building below the mountainside.
It was a two-story house painted in pastel tones.
That was their destination.

“It’s beautiful.
It doesn’t look like a village hall.”

“A while ago, the president had it repaired.
Although it used to be a senior center, now we all use it together whenever there’s work.”

Jeong-woo took a moment to rest and glanced at the front yard of the building, only to pause.
Among the parked cars, there was a van that appeared to belong to a broadcasting station.
It had a logo that said ‘Olove Channel.’

“Oh no, Yi-seol.”

Jeong-woo quickly blocked Yi-seol’s path as she was about to proceed.

“They said they would come in the evening, but it seems like the broadcasting station is already here.
Let me go in first.”

“There’s no need for that.”

While Jeong-woo hesitated with a sense of unease, Yi-seol, on the contrary, took the lead.

“Is it okay if we go like this?”

Yi-seol shook the bag she held in her left hand.

“We need to put the meat in the refrigerator while it’s fresh.
Plus, I don’t really know how to use this.
I saw it at the market earlier.”

Yi-seol lifted her mask that was resting on her chin and looked at Jeong-woo.

“I have a small face, so you can only see my eyes.”

With her round and lively eyes, she formed a bright smile.
Jeong-woo, seemingly captivated by her face that could be seen even with just a part of it behind the mask, became dazed and had a vacant expression.
Something that’s beautiful, even in part, is beautiful.

As Yoon Yi-seol passed by the van in the courtyard, she carefully examined the broadcasting company logo and tilted her head.

“It’s strange.
This channel only does cooking-related variety shows.
Didn’t they say it was for coverage earlier?”

“Well, I heard a little bit from my mother too.”

Yoon Yi-seol glanced at Jeong-woo playfully.

“It’s awkward when the manager comes out like this.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Do it properly.
Otherwise, you’ll get cut off.”

With her playful tone and laughter, Jeong-woo’s mood softened.
After experiencing the celebrity and market scenes together, having conversations like friends, and working as her manager, he found this job enjoyable even if he did it every day.

“If I get cut off, I’ll go back to being a fan.
Can you handle that?”

You can’t even handle being a fan properly.
You don’t even know my name.
You don’t know my songs.
You can’t even find your way around the market, and you subtly make fun of me.”

Yoon Yi-seol playfully complained, and Jeong-woo’s face became more serious.

“It seems like your true personality is starting to show, Yi-seol.”

Yoon Yi-seol hesitated.
It was meant to be a compliment about her liveliness, but now she seemed embarrassed.
Jeong-woo’s lips gently curved upwards.

“Thank you for coming to such a small event today.
I appreciate it.”

Yoon Yi-seol quietly turned her head towards the entrance on the first floor.

“We’re checklist buddies, right? Later, if I call you, Jeong-woo, help me once.
If this kind of volunteer work doesn’t burden you.”

“I promise.”

“We made a promise.”

As they opened the door, the savory aroma of anchovy broth filled the air.

“Wow, it smells delicious.”

Yoon Yi-seol took off her shoes and entered the house, casually greeting Park Soo-chan and Shin Ki-joon who were eating noodles on one side.
They exchanged light nods of greeting with her while wearing her mask.

Yoon Yi-seol approached the kitchen located in one corner of the spacious living room.
Two middle-aged women were busy working.

“Ma’am, this is a variety of meat.
Should I put it in the refrigerator?”

As Yoon Yi-seol suddenly appeared, Hong Ji-suk, who was standing in front of the gas range, turned her head.

In response to Hong Ji-suk’s gaze, which seemed to question whose daughter she was, Yoon Yi-seol touched her mask and hesitated.

“Oh, by the way, I… um…”

Just as she was about to take off her mask, Jeong-woo quickly approached and grabbed her wrist, lowering her hand.
Jeong-woo slightly shook his head to Yoon Yi-seol, indicating not to worry, and spoke to Hong Ji-suk.

“Mom, she’s my friend.
She came to help for a moment, so don’t pay attention to her.
It’s not a misunderstanding, so don’t ask any questions.”

Yoon Yi-seol’s pupils widened as she confirmed that Jeong-woo was his mother.
Caught off guard by their sudden encounter, she was taken aback, but Hong Ji-suk showed no noticeable change in expression.

“Oh, Jeong-woo.
Your girlfriend? You brought her for the event.”

On the other hand, Im Geum-hee, the chairwoman of the women’s association who was washing dishes at the sink, turned her head in surprise.

“Don’t misunderstand.
Don’t scare my friend.”

While Jeong-woo denied it emphatically, Yoon Yi-seol stood silently next to him, leaning against him without saying a word.
Jeong-woo thought he should quickly resolve the awkward situation for her and said.

“Let’s start organizing the groceries.”

As Jeong-woo spread out the ingredients he had bought, Yoon Yi-seol assisted him by putting them in the refrigerator.

Im Geum-hee leaned close to Hong Ji-suk.

“They seem close.
It looks good.”

At this comment, Hong Ji-suk’s gaze turned towards Yoon Yi-seol.

“I’m jealous.
Chan also brought his girlfriend earlier.
They’re really lucky.”

“Stop talking nonsense.
Just prepare the dishes.
The charcoal team will be back soon.”

“Despite being happy, she has quite the temper.”

After finishing to organize, Jeong-woo spoke to Hong Ji-suk.

“Mom, we’re hungry, so please make the noodles quickly.”

“Wait, it’s almost cooked.”

As the water in the pot with the thin noodles started to boil, Hong Ji-suk added a little cold water.
Once the foam settled, she skillfully stirred the noodles with chopsticks, showcasing the expertise of an experienced housewife.
Jeong-woo, who quietly observed her skillful movements, suddenly remembered something and asked.

“Oh, Mom.
What kind of shoot is it that they’re coming from the cable channel?”

“Is it ‘Delicious Treat’? They’re filming a cooking competition event here later.
Don’t make a scene with the neighborhood men, eating and drinking like crazy.
Just stay quiet.”

“What do you mean, ‘make a scene’? It’s your son.
And there are guests here.”

“Don’t worry about it? You worry?”


Jeong-woo glanced at Yoon Yi-seol to gauge her reaction, but she didn’t seem to be overly concerned.
He chuckled, finding it amusing to see her only smiling in response to his words.

Curious about the shooting news, Jeong-woo became intrigued and asked.

“A cooking competition? Who is competing against whom?”

As Hong Ji-suk remained quiet, Im Geum-hee smiled brightly and answered instead.

“Jeong-woo, your mom is the representative of our neighborhood.”


Jeong-woo looked at Hong Ji-suk with astonished eyes.

“Mom, going on TV? And as the main host? Unbelievable.
Should I call Aunt too?”

Suddenly, Hong Ji-suk’s palm flew towards Jeong-woo, who was singing with a teasing tone.

“Don’t act all high and mighty.
What’s the big deal about some unknown broadcasting station?”

“It’s not like it’s a national broadcast, but nowadays, so many people watch things on the internet.
By any chance, do you know who Yoon Yi-seol is?”


“Oh, seriously, you don’t know.
She’s my friend.
Remember that.”

Yoon Yi-seol, who was listening, lowered her head shyly.

After a while…

Two bowls were placed on a tray, containing a steaming brown broth and plain white noodles.
A small plate with seasoned soy sauce mixed with sesame oil was also placed on the tray.
As Yoon Yi-seol saw the dish filled with sliced kimchi, she swallowed her saliva.

“Let’s eat in the inner room.
It’s more comfortable.
Mom, I’ll eat and come back.”

As Jeong-woo carried the tray and left, Yoon Yi-seol bowed deeply to Hong Ji-suk and Im Geum-hee before following him.

They arrived at a playroom.

Yoon Yi-seol immediately knew the purpose of this room as she saw a set of playing cards on a spread-out blanket in one corner.

The tray was placed on a small table.

“Dig in.
Even though it doesn’t look fancy, it tastes good.”

“I’ll enjoy it!”

Yoon Yi-seol, who had taken off her furry hat and mask, began to slurp the noodles.
She emptied the delicious bowl so quickly that sweat formed on her forehead, and after setting down her chopsticks, she spoke.

“What should we do now?”

“We can rest.
Once everyone comes back, we’ll clean the neighborhood and prepare the feast together.
Yi-seol, can you cook?”


Yoon Yi-seol thought she couldn’t lie and honestly expressed herself.

“It’s either edible or inedible when I cook.
It usually turns out to be one of the two.”

“Wow, that’s scary.”

Seeing Yoon Yi-seol’s wide-eyed reaction, Jeong-woo waved his hand.

“No, I’m not teasing you.
I’m saying that I’m also terrible at cooking.
I can’t even boil ramen properly.
Even the class president sometimes makes fun of me.”

“Once the food enters your stomach, it’s all the same, right? Isn’t the taste the most important thing?”

“You’re right.”

Finding unexpected common ground, the two of them smiled.
Jeong-woo folded the empty bowl and stood up.

“Later, Yi-seol, you can assist in the kitchen.
It will be more convenient than wandering around with a broom in hand.
If you attract unnecessary attention and all the neighborhood kids gather, we won’t be able to do the cleaning.”

“What about Jeong-woo?”

“I’ll be in and out.
I’ll mainly run errands for the president.
But around 4 o’clock, when the TV filming starts, I’ll quickly slip away.”

After briefly contemplating, Yoon Yi-seol nodded her head.

Shin Ki-joon was filming the neighborhood from the rooftop of a small building with a sign that read “Longevity Nursing Home.”

The houses were tightly packed together, clinging to the steep slope.
The narrow alleyways beneath the eaves were so cramped that only one person could pass through.
Children, grandmothers, and men walked along the streets, each with their own voices.
Such places, where the stories of time could be felt just by filming, were not common even in Seoul.

“The neighborhood is quite chaotic, isn’t it?”

Park Soo-chan handed a cup of hot coffee to Shin Ki-joon from below.
Shin Ki-joon, receiving the paper cup, nodded his head.

“It’s quiet and nice.
There’s also a walking path behind.”

“Before this park was built, there were a lot of troublemakers around here.”

Park Soo-chan took a sip of coffee and pointed to the stairs near Jeong-woo’s house.

“Especially over there.
Jeong-woo’s father was among them…”


Jeong-woo, who had just climbed up to the rooftop, interrupted Park Soo-chan’s words.
Park Soo-chan asked Jeong-woo while leaning on the railing.

“Did you have a good date with Yoon Yi-seol?”

“A date?”

Jeong-woo had a bewildered expression, so Park Soo-chan poked him in the side as if asking why he was acting that way.

“No matter how much of an angelic celebrity Yoon Yi-seol may be, why would she come to this neighborhood with no connections? It’s because of you, dimwit.”

Jeong-woo shook his head, rolling his tongue in response to Park Soo-chan’s clueless remark.
They were friends who did things together, like going through a checklist.
Even though he wanted to insist that it was a relationship beyond that, they had only encountered each other a mere three times.

Park Soo-chan crumpled the empty coffee cup and threw it into the nearby trash bin.

“What should we do now?”


“Here? The building is already clean.”

“No, heeeeere.”

When Jeong-woo drew a line from one point to another in the alley, Park Soo-chan was astonished.

“Did you call me to be your servant or something?”

“You’re not just any servant, but a close friend who doesn’t mind doing servant-like work.
Shin Ki-joon has worked hard enough, so he can do whatever he wants.”

Shin Ki-joon smiled and reassured them before focusing on filming the neighborhood scenery.

Park Soo-chan snorted and said, “I endure it because I get to see Yoon Yi-seol’s face.”

“Not because you want to take a picture together later? To show off in our group chat.
I’m not your temporary manager today, am I?”

When Jeong-woo subtly asked, Park Soo-chan immediately asked, “Is it okay, Manager Han Jeong-woo?”

I refuse on days when I haven’t done celebrity makeup.
I wasn’t prepared to receive compliments.”

“You’re so mean!”

Yoon Yi-seol sat in one corner of the kitchen with her eyes filled with tears.
A single tear rolled down her cheek.

Sniffling, she looked up at the ceiling, gathered her determination, and raised her hand.

Chopping green onions.

The task of preparing the green onions to accompany the beef radish soup for fifty people was truly a tear-inducing job.

“Ouch, I’m done.”

Yoon Yi-seol proudly looked at the bowl filled with neatly chopped green onions.

Suddenly, her movement was interrupted as a hand grabbed her wrist to stop her from wiping her eyes with her hands stained with green onion juice.

“Wiping your eyes with hands covered in green onion juice?”


Yoon Yi-seol gratefully took the tissue that the person handed her and looked hurriedly at Hong Ji-sook, who was returning to the gas range.

“Thank you.”

“You don’t have to be so meticulous with the chopping.
There’s no one here who cares since we’re all eating together.”


“Are you just going to chop all day? Finish quickly and take a rest.”

“It’s okay.
It’s kind of fun.
What should we do next?”

Yoon Yi-seol, with eyes that had cleared from the tears, smiled like a crescent moon.
Hong Ji-sook, who silently observed Yoon Yi-seol, a friend of Jeong-woo who could focus and complete the assigned tasks, pointed to the potatoes soaking in the sink.

“When you’re stir-frying, just thinly slice ten of them, okay?”


With that, Yoon Yi-seol picked up the potatoes and sat at the table, while Im Geum-hee, who was making kimchi pancakes, laughed.

“No matter how I look at it, you seem like a newlywed.
You’re like a kind mother-in-law, and Sook-ja, you’re like a sister-in-law.
Isn’t that right, Soo-yeong?”

In agreement, Lee Sook-ja, the head of the neighborhood women’s association, and Jeon Soo-yeong, the vice president, laughed together.

“No need for useless chatter.
Everyone, chat less and focus on cooking!”

As Hong Ji-sook raised her voice, Im Geum-hee chuckled and flipped the kimchi pancake.

Yoon Yi-seol thought that the atmosphere wasn’t bad.
Perhaps it was because of her constant desire to get closer to Jeong-woo’s world, her face turned completely red, but she was glad she had a mask to hide it.

“Oh, Mrs.
Hong Ji-sook?”

A female staff member from the broadcasting station entered the kitchen wearing glasses.
Hong Ji-sook turned her head.

“What’s the matter?”

“I’m FD Oh Seung-ah.
I brought this for you, a delicious treat.
I have something to discuss regarding the shoot.
This is a copy of the cue sheet.”

Oh Seung-ah placed several sheets of A4 paper on one side of the table.

“Take a look and familiarize yourself with the progress.
I’ll be here in front, so feel free to ask if you have any questions.”

Having said that, FD walked towards the living room.

As it reached 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the first-floor living room was bustling with the setting of lights and cameras by the staff members from the broadcasting station.

Yoon Yi-seol felt oddly comfortable because it was a familiar sight, but the mothers in the kitchen occasionally became absent-minded and watched the scene in awe.

“Cue sheet?”

Hong Ji-sook, who had lowered the gas stove and sat at the table, stared at the document for a while.

“What is this saying? BS.
One, thirty….”

Yoon Yi-seol, who was slowly cutting the potatoes into pieces, turned her head as Hong Ji-sook seemed to be hearing the word “cue sheet” for the first time.

“BS stands for bust shot.
It means that the host will give an opening statement for 1 minute and 30 seconds, and during that time, the camera will focus on the upper part of the chest.”

As Yoon Yi-seol explained in a steady voice, Hong Ji-sook’s head turned.

“Is that so?”

“Also, Mom, you should look at the rundown for the cast members, not just that.
FD kindly gave us everything.”

Seeing Hong Ji-sook flipping through the pages and still not finding the right one, Yoon Yi-seol couldn’t help but approach her and point out each item.

“Here it is.
The competition consists of 5 rounds, with a best-of-3 wins.
The cooking theme is free.
Each round is 20 minutes.
Oh my, the judges will be local elders.”

This time, it was a scene where the good daughter-in-law explained something to her mother-in-law, and the other women in the kitchen covered their mouths and laughed.

Continuing to examine the cue sheet, Yoon Yi-seol found it important and read it aloud.

“As for the professional chef, we need to recommend someone who seems to be the worst cook in this neighborhood to cook with us.
Mom, you can choose anyone.”

“Someone who seems to be the worst cook? Geum-hee?”

Im Geum-hee lifted the spatula in surprise.

“Oh, sis! My husband loves my cooking!”

“That’s why you guys are a good match.”

While Hong Ji-sook and the women’s association president bantered, Yoon Yi-seol thought of herself and Jeong-woo and smiled inwardly.

The thought crossed her mind that if one of them helps that chef, her mother might win.
Of course, it’s unlikely, but still.

“I think I’ve explained everything roughly.”

“Sorry, what was his name? Jeong-woo mentioned it vaguely earlier.
He said not to worry about it.”

Yoon Yi-seol smiled and answered Hong Ji-sook’s question.

“It’s Yoon Yi-seol.”

“Yeah, Yi-seol.
Since I don’t know much about broadcasting, can you help me later? These women here thought they could just watch the cameras, but they lack taste, unlike you.”


It was an unexpected suggestion that made her eyes widen.

“You can bring in one more person.”

“Well… I can’t cook.
I’ll just be a nuisance.”

“It doesn’t matter.
Home-cooked meals are all the same.”

She was already going to compete against an expert, and now she was being chosen.
Yoon Yi-seol felt her tension skyrocket.
If she fails, she won’t have the face to see Jeong-woo.

“Oh, the atmosphere for filming.”

Jeong-woo, with a broom slung over his shoulder, entered the yard and let out a small exclamation.
Broadcast station vehicles filled the yard, equipped with all the necessary equipment.

“President, we’re done.”

At Jeong-woo’s voice, Kim Kwang-sik, who had been talking to another man, excused himself and turned around to approach them.

“You’ve worked hard.
If it weren’t for you and your friends, I don’t know when I would have finished alone.”

“We’re helping each other out.
President, you’ve helped with everything in our house, including the windows.”

Kim Kwang-sik looked warmly at Jeong-woo and asked.

“You made samgyeopsal, right?”

“That’s to celebrate my job.”

“I’m happy that you’re doing well, Jeong-woo.
I thought you’d only be good at making wraps when you grow up.”

Jeong-woo smiled coolly, as if in agreement, while the president patted his back in an affectionate manner.

“You’ve grown up quite a bit, Jeong-woo, with a clear mind.”

Yoon Yi-seol was about to go inside to see something, but her steps involuntarily stopped when she noticed the man standing next to the president.

Dressed as a chef.
Traditional market.


It was the man who had intercepted the cod that Jeong-woo had carefully chosen.

Startled, when Jeong-woo looked at him, Hyeon-min recognized that he had recognized his fame and nodded with a warm smile.

“I’m Chef Hyeon-min.
Nice to meet you.”

“Ah, yes…”

That man was the one who would have a cooking showdown with his mother today.
Jeong-woo felt that the world was truly small, he bowed his head, and entered the building.

Hyeon-min asked Kim Kwang-sik, who had returned.

“President, do you have anyone you can recommend? It would be great if it’s a young person who can communicate well.”

“Stay put.
Someone young who can’t cook, is that it?”


Kim Kwang-sik pointed towards the direction where Jeong-woo had just disappeared.

“He’s the perfect fit.
Unlike my mom, he can’t even boil ramen properly.
Last month, when I was drinking with him at the rice wine house, Mr.
Heo spilled it all.
He boiled ramen, but there was no soup.
He said he wanted to have hangover soup, but he used the noodles instead.”

Hyeon-min chuckled at the pitiful and absurd story and said.

“If you ask me to recommend someone during the shoot later, you can introduce him at that time.”

“Well, you’re being fair.”

“A showdown should have that kind of flavor.”

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