SEOUL -- When Cho Hee-sook started as a hotel cook in South Korea in the early 1980s, fine dining was the last thing on her mind. "I remember having to prepare large quantities of food," she says. "We'd eat a lot, to fill our stomachs. People were not too concerned about presentation."
Nor was being a cook or chef the respected or even glamorous job it is today. Occupying such a position was "shameful" -- something that even men would have to hide if they wanted to get married. At the time, working in a kitchen was akin to a blue-collar job.