TV show ac­cused of pro­mot­ing wrong eater­ies

The Korea Times - - CULTURE - By Park Jin-hai jin­[email protected]­re­

Fa­mous name­sake chef and eatery fran­chises owner Baek Jong-won hosts one of Ko­rea’s hottest re­al­ity shows at the mo­ment, the food re­al­ity show “Baek Jong-won’s Al­ley Restau­rant.”

The SBS Wednes­day show, with no big-name celebrity cast mem­bers, en­joys strong view­er­ship. Its re­cent episodes have sur­passed 10 per­cent, top­ping the time slot for months.

But the show re­cently has been hit hard by a cast­ing con­tro­versy for se­lect­ing the wrong restau­rant own­ers. By giv­ing the spot­light to un­pre­pared ones, some view­ers com­plained the wrong cast­ing choices doesn’t live up to the show’s pur­pose — to help tal­ented but strug­gling small restau­rant own­ers find suc­cess — and urges the pro­duc­ers to use a more con­sid­er­ate se­lec­tion process for the fea­tured restau­ra­teurs.

Its pop­u­lar­ity stems from the “hu­man drama” in each episode.

At a time when many un­pre­pared self-em­ployed peo­ple join the restau­rant busi­ness due to the in­dus­try’s low en­try bar­ri­ers and add to the fierce com­pe­ti­tion, many small restau­rant own­ers suf­fer the con­se­quences.

Those who have worked hard their whole lives to be­come a skilled master in that field now strug­gle to stay afloat. On the pro­gram, the cho­sen restau­rant own­ers get some ad­vice from Baek to re­new their menus, and their sweat is paid off with cus­tomers wait­ing in queues to en­ter the restau­rant.

View­ers, em­pathiz­ing with the hard­ships of those restau­rant own­ers, have given strong re­sponses to the show.

The episodes for Pobangter Mar­ket in Seo­dae­mun-gu, north­west­ern Seoul, aired in De­cem­ber show­ing a small restau­rant sell­ing raw fer­mented skate fish, helped the show’s rat­ings surge re­mark­ably.

The son who runs the restau­rant with his mother was lazy and played with his smart­phone while his el­derly mother did al­most all the work.

The son emerged as a vil­lain of the show but after Baek’s sharp-tongued and bit­ter­sweet pieces of ad­vice not only for food it­self but also the mother-son re­la­tion­ship, the episode closed with the son’s dra­matic makeover as a faith­ful owner, and his teary-eyed thank­ful mother touched view­ers.

In some fol­low-up scenes, Baek re­vis­ited the restau­rant and ex­changed text mes­sages, which gave more au­then­tic­ity to the show’s pro­moted in­ten­tion.

Baek’s sta­tus has been el­e­vated from chef to men­tor.

Yet in the most re­cent episodes for restau­rants in the Cheongpa-dong neigh­bor­hood in Yongsan-gu, view­ers say they don’t un­der­stand why Baek vis­ited there to help those restau­rant own­ers.

A pizza restau­rant owner served poor-qual­ity pasta to cus­tomers sent by the show to judge the food, and the owner told the com­plain­ing cus­tomers, “If you don’t like the food, leave it.”

The owner of a new store sell­ing twisted donuts ap­peared on the show and said he had no spare time and was in no con­di­tion to prac­tice more to speed up the donut-mak­ing process.

The two own­ers have stirred a con­tro­versy. Some claim they are not strug­gling small restau­rant own­ers, but well-off busi­ness­men. The lat­ter said on so­cial me­dia, “With an ex­ist­ing de­sign and con­sult­ing firm, I newly launched the donut store.”

Jung Duk-hyun, a cul­ture critic, says the wrong restau­rant choices de­fames the show.

“Baek giv­ing a help­ing hand to those not ready and not pay­ing due ef­forts, se­lect­ing menus and spoon feed­ing them ad­vice is not giv­ing so­lu­tions but priv­i­leges to them,” he said.

“View­ers are start­ing to sus­pect those food shows are in fact for pro­mo­tion. Fea­tur­ing a restau­rant in a TV show can be it­self a great priv­i­lege, so the show should have a more con­sid­er­ate screen­ing process in se­lect­ing restau­rants.”

Cour­tesy of SBS

Baek Jong-won, cen­ter, speaks dur­ing the SBS TV show “Al­ley Restau­rant.”

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