Do you enjoy watching the popular TV drama “Another Miss Oh” made by tvN (the Korean broadcasting channel)? In addition to romantic love between the heroine Oh Hae-Young (Seo Hyun-Jin) and Park Do-Kyoung (Eric), it’s also interesting to see the company life of another Oh Hae-Young who has the same name of the heroine Oh and works as a planner for Korean food restaurant Season’s Table, her colleague Park Soo-Kyung and members of marketing team.
Today, let’s find out the story of the real Oh Hae-Young, a planner of CJ Foodville’s Korean food restaurant Season’s Table, which is the backdrop of the drama’s restaurant.
The enjoyment of making things by hand leads her to have a new life.
▲ Welcome, enjoy a healthy meal prepared for you in Season’s Table.
Here is Park Jin-Hee, an assistant manager of the product development team in CJ Foodville’s food service division. She engages in planning products for Season’s Table, and has many similarities to the character of Oh Hae-Young. The most common feature between them is that they both love what they do and work hard on value-adding tasks.
When tvN authorities visited to collect materials regarding information on Season’s Table, including people’s daily lives and the episodes of product planners, Park just talked with her colleagues, saying “What TV drama? The main character’s job is a planner in the food service industry?” Soon after that, the television drama began airing. It has since become popular, and she has taken calls from friends, saying “have you seen “Another Miss Oh”? One of the characters is just like you! She does the same work as you do for Season’s Table.”
▲ Image source: tvN‘s “Another Miss Oh” homepage
“There are times when I feel good about it, but sometimes I feel awkward that a character in such a popular TV drama has the same job as mine. In fact, I think we have not many things in common except our job.”
“Nonetheless, when I saw the first episode of the drama that Hae-Young diligently cooked rice in a traditional Korean iron pot for customers and smiled at the corner of the store to see them enjoying the meals, I realized I know exactly what that feels like.”
She has always worked diligently to make foods for the enjoyment of others. After studying law at university, Park, who likes to make something by hand, felt an interest in food styling and started to study cookery.
After that, she worked as a food stylist and accumulated experience in a company operating in the food industry, taking on a role which included conducting cooking classes, planning menus and catering. To share a touching moment of changing the common behavior of eating into a special experience with more people, Park entered CJ Foodville in 2014.
Bringing out the tastes of mother’s cuisine that I remember
▲ Having conversation with chefs to check favored menu in a store!
“Season’s Table introduces local ingredients and makes meals with seasonal ingredients sourced from local producers. In my early days here, there were many ingredients that I had never seen before, and I worried about the ways how to harmonize strengths of a Korean food restaurant with its weaknesses.”
“Fortunately, the answers were easily found. Korean dishes are what I’ve had my whole life, and that my mother made for me. My body and heart remember the tastes of my mother’s cuisine. That is why I set a goal to bring out the tastes and nutrients of home cooked foods. I decided to provide a healthy and delicious Season’s Table by going beyond the boundaries of the foodservice business.”
Park describes a product planner in a foodservice franchise as someone who takes charge of everything needed to devise new menus. In other words, a planner takes into account various local ingredients, including newly found and seasonal ingredients to make new menus suitable for the season.
As a planner, she should try varying dishes from various countries, conduct research into old or international books related to cooking, and thoroughly monitor the market trends in the food and dining industry.
▲ I take responsibility for everything needed to develop a menu!
Season’s Table provides about 20 menus per season, including new menus and upgraded menus with more flavor and nutrition. Given that it takes at least three months to prepare this, Park and her colleagues face each season earlier than others.
Oh Hae-Young devises menus with rice polished instantly, and director Park Soo-Kyung has emphasized grasping the trend. Meanwhile, a product planner working for the foodservice franchise should take ideas that flash through daily life and identify in advance how people’s tastes and preferences change.
The chefs in charge of Season’s Table at CJ Foodville’s foodservice research institute devise planned menus into real products. Product planners consider the timeliness of menus, ingredients, trends and tastes to devise ideas, and chefs later share the ideas and work with the planners to realize great seasonal Korean dishes.
Planners and chefs make dishes together to try to quantify ingredients, standardize the recipe, review whether the menu can be cooked easily in the restaurant, and check whether the cooked foods lack taste or have any unexpected problem when served.
After this process, food tasting events are conducted for several times to review whether the new menus have commercial value. During the three or four events at the company, things to fix or add to menus can be found, which means many people’s tastes and experiences can refine the menus. Likewise, a product planner takes responsibility to make changes and keep coordinating various opinions for the process.
Finally, once tasting events for customers have been completed successfully, all branches of Season’s Table start to offer the menus. All staffs ranging from cookers to servers are trained to provide dishes in the best condition.
Product planners are the busiest role in the process. They train new menus and prepare plates and displays suitable for menus in each branch. Moreover, they need to help marketing teams produce ads and cooperate with affiliates by giving opinions and supporting the works.
▲ A place for enjoying healthy and delicious Korean foods: Season’s Table
“The hardest thing is to find whether the menus we devise can harmonize with each other and still be nutritious and correspond to the trend. Even if we develop the most delicious dishes, they will never become popular unless they harmonize with existing dishes.”
“In addition, we need to consider the balance of flavors of Korean and Western foods. Although Season’s Table focuses on Korean foods, it tries to modernize foods in accordance with the tastes of young or overseas customers. For instance, the dish Dumpling Snacks and Seasoned Colored Vegetables which launched this spring is a salad mixed with fresh vegetables and arranged by colors on plate. It’s based on the Western Cobb salad.”
With a good work-life balance, find a life worth living.
▲ A happy vocational disease: she always finds out good flavors in earnest.
Without five keen senses, a product planner at Season’s Table would never be able to take a step forward. That is why Park emphasizes the importance of throwing away useless thoughts and keeping one’s appetite and senses while taking a rest.
Of course it’s not easy. When she finds herself leading family members into nearly ten famous restaurants a day and record information on foods in memos and photos on a family trip, she just has to laugh about the thought that it might be another type of vocational disease.
“I was not able to eat many foods. I couldn’t eat raw fish and meat, as well as foods with a strange chewing texture. Now, however, when I see any food I’ve never tried before, I make sure to have a bite for my research.”
“To take a rest, I want to spend my free time doing things not related to foods, but having new tastes in a new place and sharing responses with others are still pleasurable experiences for me, although sometimes I feel it’s a bit too much like work and that it’s a slight burden.”
▲ As a planner, be a generalist rather than a specialist!
Park believes that maintaining a healthy work-life balance and trying out new tastes helps a product planner work successfully for a long time. But, what does she think of the requirements for a planner in the foodservice industry?
“It’s important to be a generalist rather than a specialist. A product planner is kind of a multi-role player who sets up a bridge to connect the public with foods and provide an opportunity for enjoying other cultures. As the planner should have common and rich experience, people interested in many things are best fit for the job.”
“Furthermore, it’s important to have good communicative skills. My job involve meeting, talking, and persuading others while also listening to their opinions about menu launches. Communication is almost more fundamental to the job than devising the actual menus. That is why a person who delivers his or her opinion well and listens to others’ opinions is particularly well-suited to the job.”
Value of collaboration delivered by Season’s Table
▲ Value of collaboration will be provided on Season’s Table.
Following the recent craze for bananas, banana slush Makgeolli (Korean rice wine) has risen in prominence at Season’s Table. The restaurant provides delicious cuisine made from traditional ingredients that were almost forgotten, including Crippled Wheat, Watson Pomelo and Irish Cobbler potato, successfully delivering the taste of Korean foods. How would Park, who makes a connection to the past and present through foods, define Season’s Table?
“I think the restaurant can be best defined using the word collaboration because of the way the brand coexists with farmers who engage in hard work to make fresh ingredients. There are many difficulties involved in using local, seasonal ingredients, and even unexpected troubles could come, like the failure of the Irish Cobbler harvest in summer last year.”
“Nonetheless, Season’s Table and farmers collaborate with each other for the same purpose. I think this is the brand’s special culture and value to pursue.”
▲ Hope to give a lot of support to Season’s Table filled with real Oh Hae-young Park’s devotion!
In Season’s Table, where collaboration is connected to sharing, all staff and farmers as well as Park Jin-Hee are making concerted efforts to provide customers with the most delicious and healthy dining experience. Foods deliver not only flavors, but also health, happiness, culture, good memories, value and a sense of accomplishment. The power of Real Oh Hae-Young, Park for doing hard work with a smiling face comes from these efforts and the sense of accomplishment that comes with it.