Alvin Leung aka the ‘Demon Chef’ (a sobriquet he gave himself) has had quite an unconventional rise in the culinary world. A former engineer, Leung changed course at the age of 43, quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with when his debut Hong Kong restaurant Bo Innovation picked up two Michelin stars six years into its inception (now it has a third star).
Leung’s signature X-treme cuisine, where molecular gastronomy features strongly in his interpretation of Chinese cuisine, has since become almost as well known as the man himself.
These days, Leung has evolved into a well-recognised celebrity chef, with various restaurants to his name, television appearances and a judge’s seat on MasterChef Canada, where he doles out harsh criticism aplenty.
In his latest culinary adventure, Leung takes on the Korean city of Seoul in the brand new television series Seoul Extreme. The Seoul-Leung pairing is fitting because like Leung, Seoul too has undergone its very own renaissance. The hallyu wave of the past decade has brought K-culture to the forefront of mainstream consciousness. As a result, bulgogi is as ubiquitous in the gourmet scene as pad Thai.
In this four-part food travelogue, Leung explores the heart of Korean cuisine and heritage from his own unique perspective. Armed with local sidekicks in the form of bloggers and chefs, he dissects the city’s culinary concoctions and offers his own twist on signature dishes.
“I think my mission in Seoul Extreme is to go through all the aspects of Korean cuisine found here in Seoul. We start with the markets – we will do the traditional, the progressive, the aggressive, the fun, and the trendy. My journey is not just about cuisine; it’s also about culture. I want to experience everything,” he said in a press release issued by LiTV.
And Leung does just that, trawling the city’s sprawling markets, tasting local delicacies like bibimbap, sannakji (raw live octopus) and gaebul (penis worm) and keeping his finger on the pulse of ever-evolving culinary trends as he explores hip Korean neighbourhoods like Gangnam and Hongdae.
And if you think a virtual walk-through of the Seoul culinary scene isn’t enough, there’s a twist in store for viewers at the end of each episode. “After being inspired by what I see, do, and taste, I will then do my own ‘X-treme’ version,” said Leung.
That’s right, Korean food will get its own version of Leung’s famed X-treme treatment. Expect to drool over culinary creations like marinated crab soufflé, pine-smoked fermented skate, ginseng chicken martini and cheesy snail “mask” – a dish inspired by the snail mask, a famous Korean beauty trend.
So if you want a sense of just what Seoul’s gastro scene serves up, tune in to Seoul Extreme. Because if anyone can sniff out good food, it is Leung, a man whose intrinsic sense of adventure and daredevil spirit have quickly propelled him to the top of his game.
Seoul Extreme premieres on Feb 7 at 9.30pm on Life Inspired (Astro Channel 728).