A pinch of destiny, a cup of fate, a heaping teaspoonful of fantasy, and a pound of true love – that’s what we get in the 2020 South Korean-Chinese webdrama How Are U Bread.
Han Dae-Gyu, the country’s best and most revered rice cake master, disowned his only son, Han Do-Woo, when he decided to go to France to learn the art of being a pastry chef. The old man saw Do-Woo’s career choice as an out-and-out betrayal of the “spirit” of the rice cake, an abandonment of the sacred family business, and a disgrace to the family name. But Do-Woo accomplished exactly what he set out to do and is now a famous pastry chef and the owner of Aurora Bakery. When Do-Woo is approached by a representative of MBS TV with a proposal to be one of the contestants on a baking contest reality show he quickly turns them down. He’s never had the desire to be on TV and once even rejected a six figure offer to do so. However, when Mi-Rae, a beautiful scriptwriter, pleads with him to be on the show, because it will help further her career, he changes his mind and agrees to take part in the contest. Little does Mi-Rae know that the first show she has been put in charge of is sponsored by a baking company that hates Master Han Dae-Gyu and has waited decades to be the means of his downfall. They plan on using the televised contest to publicly disgrace his son Do-Woo and ruin the Han family name.
Twenty-six year old Han Do-Woo graduated from the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu school in France. He is known as the world-renowned baking competition champion whose pastries people stand in line to buy day after day. Do-Woo puts his whole heart and soul into the pastries he bakes and his customers can definitely taste the young man’s sincerity. Every day he bakes a different kind of pastry, in limited quantity, which he refers to as “How Are You Bread” with each one having its own meaning attached to it. Rumor has it, if you make a wish with your first bite, it will come true by your last bite. Although his amazing baking skills have won over the public, Do-Woo believes his father sees him as the maverick who betrayed their traditional rice cakes and compromised with western culture. Although he has tried to explain to his dad that his bread has its own “spirit,” the old gentleman adamantly refuses to except his son’s career choice.
Considered to be a thick-skinned workaholic by her colleagues, Noh Mi-Rae has been working at MBS TV for two years and desperately wants to be the lead writer of a broadcast entertainment program. When the opportunity finally presents itself in the form of a baking contest reality show, she excitedly takes the challenge and comes up with an idea her boss loves – three episodes with three competitors battling it out in three different bake-offs – “Supreme Taste, Baking Three Admirals.” Instead of working on project planning, Mi-Rae is instructed to assist the chefs with whatever they may need for the competition. Although Chef Damon Ryu, one of the contestants, sees Mi-Rae’s offer of help as a chance to get close to a pretty lady, Do-Woo makes sure to keep their relationship strictly on a professional level. As the show and the contest progresses it doesn’t take long for Mi-Rae to notice that every time she samples one of Do-Woo specialty “How Are You Bread” pastries she is unable to keep her emotions in check.
Chef Damon Ryu and Do-Woo not only attended the same baking school in France but were roommates while they were there. Damon is as popular as a celebrity and was affectionately given the nickname The Prince of Baking. He has an air of confidence about him and doesn’t seem to be anxious about the competition at all.
Rich girl Do Do-Hae is conceited, ruthless, has a sense of entitlement, and is extremely selfish to the point of being sadistically cruel – as a child she killed another kid’s dog when he refused to give it to her. Her mother is the president of HyeSeong Baking Company (the ones sponsoring the televised baking competition) and Do-Hae stands to inherit the company only if she follows instructions and helps her mother bring down Do-Woo and his father.
One of the three contestants in the contest is a husband and wife team known as the Chebyeong Couple. He is referred to as the master who guards the secrets of Shaolin Temple Baking, and his assistant/wife is the one who taught him everything he knows.
Kim Jun-Myeon (aka Suho from Exo) plays the part of pastry chef Han Do-Woo. If you’re interested in a little information about this talented singer/songwriter turned actor I invite you to go to my Rich Man, Poor Woman review.
If you click on my review of Hit the Top you can read a bit about Lee Se-Young, the actress whose character is Noh Mi-Rae. You probably remember Se-Young was the female lead in the drama I reviewed just two weeks ago called Memorist.
This story has some fantasy weaved into its plot which I, personally, thought cheapened it. There’s a magical-type character whose job it is to interfere with the romance of couples that destiny claims shouldn’t be together. That silly element didn’t need to be thrown into the mix. I could think of several ways to accomplish what the writer needed to have happen and all of them would have been able to keep the story on a realistic plain. Once the magic started to happen “oh, brother” began flashing through my head. It also made me think, why don’t people who know both Do-Woo and Mi-Rae ask them questions? (Sorry, but that’s as explicit as I can get without giving too much away. I’m sure you’ll figure out what I mean once you see the show.)
Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the story delved deep enough into these characters relationships as well as it could have. It’s mentioned that Do-Woo and Damon were roommates while they were attending Le Cordon Bleu in France but the young men’s relationship was too superficial for that to be true. There also seemed to be a bit of animosity between them and we never find out exactly why they aren’t closer now when a picture Damon has shows them as being quite friendly in France. We also don’t get much depth out of Mi-Rae’s character. We meet her mother, who runs a small restaurant, and she tells Do-Woo that her father passed away from a long-term illness the year she started middle school but that’s it. We know Do-Woo and Damon were in France for baking school but we never find out why Mi-Rae was there. Although the drama is only five episodes, each around 45 minutes long, they could have squeezed in a bit more information about its lead female character.
This drama’s ending is up for grabs. The writer took us so far and then pulled away so that each audience member can decide for themself what happens. A sequel? Maybe, maybe not. It would be fine to leave it as it is but I was invested enough that if there was a part two, later on down the line, I’d watch it.
Although How Are U Bread is a webdrama you could definitely put it side by side a full length drama and it would do just fine. Everything’s slightly better than what we’re used to with run-of-the-mill webdramas, which definitely gives this show some extra points. Sadly though, there were a few “oops” I caught but they are small and don’t effect the story at all. (There’s one where Do-Woo puts jam on a slice of bread, puts the bread on a plate, and then slides it across the table to Mi-Rae. Watch carefully when she picks up the bread – the jam side is facing the plate and she has to turn it over to take a bite.)
It’s always nice when an actor/actress in the drama participates in making some of the show’s music. How lucky we are to have Kim Jun-Myeon (Suho), who plays the main character Han Do-Woo, adding his beautiful tenor voice to How Are U Bread’s soundtrack by singing the upbeat ballad Sedansogu. He hits some high notes in that song with such ease, it’s incredible. I was impressed that this short webdrama had so many really nice songs. Elaine performs the happy sounding Loved and the guy doing the rapping alongside her does an excellent job. I just wish he had been credited so I could know who I was praising. Chinjamae’s (CJM) voice is so pretty singing the ballad Beautiful Tonight. Min Jae (of Tahiti) & Anso perform The Second Farewell, a lovely, strong ballad with lots of emotion. And last, but certainly not least, the toe-tappin’ Algo is performed by Live High.
How Are U Bread’s aesthetics are right up there with TV dramas. Do-Woo’s bakery cafe is beautiful inside and out, his father’s house looks like one of those ancient Korean houses, we get to see Do-Woo and Mi-Rae stroll through a ton of colored lights in her hometown… they definitely didn’t hold back with scenery, backgrounds, and shooting locations.
As far as webdramas go, How Are U Bread is pretty good. If you don’t expect a lot of romance and prepare ahead of time for some fantasy that is totally unnecessary I think you will enjoy it.
Higher quality than your usual webdrama
Yummy looking pastries
Five episodes at 45 minutes a piece
Some minor “oops”
The fantasy/magic parts are not necessary and just cheapen the story