As if we don’t have enough fish-out-of-water-due-to-amnesia Kdramas, Eccentric! Chef Moon recycles that tired, old plot, plopping a handful of really good actors into an eehh sort of show.
When an automobile accident leaves Yoo Yoo-Jin (who is secretly the beloved fashion designer Yoo Bella) without a single memory, she is wholeheartedly embraced and adopted by a handful of loving people from a tiny town. Unable to recall who she is or where she’s from, the poor woman is allowed to live with Moon Sung-Mo, a famous chef who has recently taken up residence in the small village of Seoha, after his parents’ died due to the malicious burning of their restaurant. There, the town folks of Seoha come together to prevent Donghan Group from destroying their homes and buildings in order to construct a gigantic textile factory where the village is. In the mean time, someone has come forward claiming to be the star fashion designer Yoo Bella and it looks as if she just might ruin the clothing brand Yoo Yoo-Jin has worked all her life to establish.
According to news and magazine headlines, “New Generation Star Chef Moon Seung-Mo, [is the man who is] Leading Korean Cuisine’s Globalization.” He traveled all over the country to learn each province’s famous family recipes and is the only chef who can cook the full course Korean meals in all provinces’ traditional styles. As a world renowned chef he showcases the taste of that time-honored Korean cuisine not only in his home country but in other places around the world, as well. Chef Moon won a gold medal in an international cooking competition and has accompanied several previous presidents on their foreign trips as the main chef at their banquets. He is also the recipient of the Presidential Citation, granted to him by President Moon Jae-In. Seung-Mo comes from a cooking family, his parents owning the well known Pong Cheon Ok restaurant. He is shocked and crushed when both his father and mother are tragically killed while running back into their restaurant, which was engulfed in flames, in order to try and save their precious aged soy sauce. Now, Seung-Mo has decided to give up traveling and, along with Seol-Ah (the little girl who claims to be his daughter), settle down in the house his parents had purchased and fixed up in the small village of Seoha.
As a young teenager, Yoo Yoo-Jin’s single mother, a model and fashion designer, was killed in a car accident. In order to remove her from the horrible rumors surrounding her mom’s death, Yoo-Jin was taken to Europe by her mother’s friend and mentor, Madam Jang Sun-Young, and taught the art of fashion design. She attended the prestigious Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp and, under the name Yoo Bella, became the world famous fashion designer and owner of the clothing brand Bella Ombré. In order to keep her anonymity, Madam Jang is the only person alive who knows her true identity. Yoo Bella has never shown her face to the world, choosing to displaying only her silhouette behind a screen at each and every Bella Ombré fashion show. Yoo-Jin has suffered from anorexia and bulimia for years, vomiting even the foods made by top notch French chefs. After wandering away from the car accident she was in, she was discovered by Seung-Mo and, because the tragic incident caused her to have amnesia, she is kindly allowed to live with him, Seol-Ah, and his artist friend. Because Seung-Mo finds her personality to be completely bizarre, he ends up giving her the name Yoo Byeol-Na which sounds similar to the word that means eccentric.
Seol-Ah is seven years old and under the misguided impression Chef Moon is her father. The darling little girl hasn’t had any formal education and is unable to read or write. She does, however, have an exceptional sense of smell. She is friendly, helpful, eager to please, and wise beyond her years.
Madam Jang Sun-Young has been in the fashion industry for decades. She is Yoo-Jin’s friend, teacher, manager, and surrogate mother.
Bang Da-Hoon is Seung-Mo’s closest friend and roommate. He is a painter who, at one time, had an art school in Seoul.
Im Chun-Young is the twisted son-in-law of the Chairman of Donghan Corporation. He believes in stealing what he wants, and what he wants is Donghan Corporation.
Im Hyun-Ah is Im Chul-Young’s insecure, mentally unstable daughter. She is a third-rate fashion designer that copies all her designs from Bella.
Kang Joon-Soo is Im Chul-Young’s step-son and the newly appointed CEO of Donghan Food. He wants to help maintain the good reputation of his grandfather’s company.
Forty-one year old Mun Jung-Hyuk, better known to his fans as Eric Mun (Chef Moon), moved to the United States with his family and spent his teenage years attending school in California. (That’s why he speaks English so well in this show.) He returned to his birth country in 1996 and became a trainee for SM Entertainment. In March of 1998 he began his entertainment career as the leader and main rapper in the Kpop group Shinhwa, which is the longest running boy group in the history of Kpop! When the group’s first album didn’t do well, he seriously considered giving up and returning to the States. (This Kdrama fan is certainly glad he didn’t follow through with that thought.) Before his enlistment in the army, Eric was the highest paid singer-turned-actor at the time, earning just shy of $25,000 an episode for his role in the period drama Strongest Chil Woo. He gave up his U.S. citizenship and was the first member of Shinhwa to begin serving his mandatory military assignment but because of a back injury he received (from being hit by a car while filming the drama Wolf) he served non-active duty after his month long training. After his discharge, his first acting project was Spy Myung-Wol. Following Shinhwa’s 16th anniversary concerts he went back to acting, starring in the Kdrama Discovery of Romance (opposite his Que Sera Sera costar Jung Yu-Mi) for which he won three awards. In fact, in a 2015 Instiz discussion post about viewers favorite Kdrama characters, Eric’s Discovery of Romance character, Kang Tae-Ha, came in at number six! After Shinhwa’s 18th anniversary Eric starred in the beloved cable drama Another Oh Hae-Young, his acting winning him the Romantic Comedy King award at the tvN10 Awards. He dated actress Na Hye-Mi for five years and the couple was married in 2017. Eric has a Theater and Film degree from Dongguk University.
For some information about the actress Go Won-Hee, who plays the part of Yoo Yoo-Jin/Yoo Bella/Yoo Byeol-Na, you can go to my Strongest Deliveryman review.
*W – Two Worlds – A comic book character makes his way into the real world.
*Memories of the Alhambra – A video game turns real and deadly.
*Signal – Two cops use the same walkie-talkie to communicate through time.
*Secret Garden – A man and a woman magically swap bodies.
*About Time – A girl has the ability to see peoples’ life spans.
*Missing Korea – North Korean factory workers are compelled to participate in a beauty pageant.
*Melting Me Softly – Two people are cryogenically frozen and unthawed many years later.
What do all these dramas have in common? Originality. A plot that is fresh and new. A storyline that keeps us on our toes, anxiously trying to guess what will happen next because we have no prior experience to go by in order to figure out what awaits us around the corner. Unfortunately, Eccentric! Chef Moon lacks that superb quality Kdrama lovers crave. A rich and influential person gets amnesia, has a totally different personality and lifestyle in a laid-back, little town and, while unaware of who they really are, falls in love with a genuinely good person. Oh, we can’t forget about the scheming bad guy who would rather have that person dead than regain their memories and resume their original life. Now, if you thought I was describing Eccentric! Chef Moon you were right – and wrong. Those exact same words also describe the plot of Save the Last Dance For Me. Aside from a slight twist (Ji Sung’s character gets amnesia twice in the latter show) these two dramas are incredibly similar. Come on writers – if you’re going to copy something, copy other screenwriters’ originality, not the actual storyline.
After watching Eric Mun in Spy Myeong-Wol, Discovery of Romance, and Another Oh Hae-Young I was thrilled to see him cast in a new romantic Kdrama. However, by the time I came to the end of Eccentric! Chef Moon I felt sorry for him. He’s an excellent actor that deserved so much more than what he was given in this drama – a mediocre character and a repeat plot. If, because Eric is the top star, you are expecting the slick chemistry, plot depth, and toe-curling kisses that came with Another Oh Hae-Young, I regret to inform you that you’re in for a sad awakening.
It’s not surprising that Eccentric! Chef Moon’s ratings suffered greatly, unable to even break a full 1%! The highest it got was .856%. Since I’m not one to put a whole lot of stock into a show’s ratings I hope you’ll be a bit skeptical and not allow this paragraph to keep you from watching the drama. It’s not going on my least favorite list so I don’t think you should count it out completely. Leave it on your watch list, just not in a position anywhere higher than the middle.
After booing Eccentric! Chef Moon for its lack of originality I need to take a small step back to acknowledge the noticeable uniqueness of the show’s bad guy. Im Chun-Young is much like other evil characters we’ve seen, except for the fact that his scary side comes from his laid-back, quiet mannerisms. He speaks in a slow and careful whisper 95% of the time which allows him to come uncomfortably close to the person he is threatening. That’s an interesting way of exerting power. At first I thought it was strange because his quiet speaking lacked force. However, the whispering kept everyone, aside from the person he was talking to, from hearing what was being said, meaning there was no one to confirm his threats or confessions. The person being spoken to was isolated with evil, even with others in the same room. And to feel that evil person’s warm breath on your neck… that must be terrifying. I don’t know whose idea it was – the director or actor Ahn Nae-Sang, himself – but it was definitely an excellent call.
This show receives another thumb’s up for casting the talented seven year old, Go Do-Yeon, as Seol-Ah. She is absolutely wonderful, showing some seasoned acting skills at such a young age. This is her first major acting role (after playing tiny parts in both Mama Fairy and the Woodcutter and Hospital Playlist) and she pulled it off like a proper little actress.
Another plus side – the music is good. My favorite song is Getting Good, wonderfully sung in English by Aancod. It’s impossible for me to sit still when I listen to that song. Spring Day, performed by Astro’s MJ, is finger-snapping, toe-tapping excellence. The pretty ballad Fluttering, is beautifully sung by soprano The Ade. Her strong vocal isn’t over-the-top blasting but clear and passion-driven. My favorite male-sung ballad is With Me, performed by Horim. The sound is soft, slick, and classy. Something you can definitely relax and fall asleep to.
The show’s fourth thumb’s up is its scenery which is not only charming but pretty, as well. The quaint, little village has lovely, wide open spaces while the big city side of the show places the characters in the high-class atmosphere of the fashion and business world. We also get to go to Australia in the first episode and see kangaroos and koalas.
Eccentric! Chef Moon isn’t a bad drama. It has some really good moments. The problem is the sum of those moments isn’t a large total. The acting is good but the writing leaves a whole lot to be desired!
Note: If you’re somewhat of a culinary expert in Korean cuisine you might recognize real life chefs Yoo Hyeon-Soo and Jung Ho-Yeong who make a cameo appearance in the show.
New, little, actress Go Do-Yeon
Different, good twist on how the bad guy is played
Darling village characters