Baek, who rose to stardom through various food-related TV shows, recently starred in “Baek Jong-won’s Food Truck,” offering his assistance to young food truck owners. He will continue in his mission in yet another show, “Backstreet,” set to air Friday night on SBS.
The goal of the weekly program is to help revive five restaurants in an alley near Ewha Womans University that are suffering sluggish business. A flourishing area in the 1990s, the neighborhood has lost much of its foot traffic as other nearby areas began to thrive.
At a meeting with reporters at a cafe nearby Wednesday, Baek stressed his ultimate goal is to “increase the pie” of the food-related industry in Korea.
“I would like to attract people who weren’t interested in food and help the consumers understand the producers, creating a virtuous cycle,” he said.
As a restaurateur himself, he can empathize with restaurant owners and understand, through his own experience, how hard it is to run such an enterprise, Baek said.
“Making delicious food at home and running a restaurant are completely different matters. But some owners discount the difference and go through hardships,” he said. “My job is to offer them some tips that I have learned from experience.”
While there are concerns the show could have unintended consequences -- other businesses in the area may be eclipsed as people rush to restaurants featured on food shows, for example -- Baek is confident the area’s businesses can prosper in the long run.
“Based on the experience from past shows, it can be a positive factor for the locals. During the first month after a show hits the air, there definitely is a rush to the mentioned restaurants,” he said. “But as time passes, new customers come to the scene and the overall market enlarges itself, creating a new culture.”
Baek promised that viewers will be able to enjoy the show as they sympathize with the owners’ hardships.
“In the show, there are people who opened a restaurant because they simply love cooking. But there are also owners who had to make a living, after being fired from work. It could happen to any of us,” Baek said.
By Im Eun-byel (firstname.lastname@example.org)