Meet the trailblazing chef behind the best restaurant in Korea

Food & Drink

His most recent honor comes from his peers and will be awarded to him at this week’s Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants event   

ANCX Staff | Mar 12 2021

He’s earned the respect of Asia’s gastronomic leaders through his tireless work expanding the possibilities of Korean cuisine in recent years. His flagship restaurant, Mingles, first appeared on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2016 at No.15, won the Highest New Entry award, and named The Best Restaurant in Korea for five consecutive years.

It’s no wonder Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants has announced that Mingoo Kang of Mingles in Seoul, South Korea, is the 2021 recipient of the Inedit Damm Chefs’ Choice Award. Kang was voted by his fellow chefs on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list to be given the recognition, acknowledging Chef Kang’s contributions to the region’s culinary scene.

The interiors of Mingles restaurant

Drawing on his culinary heritage, Kang uses seasonal local herbs, hansik technical expertise, creative flair and international experience. (Hansik refers to the traditional Korean meal which involves rice, soup and a slew of side dishes). Last July, Kang brought his innovative interpretation of Korean cuisine overseas for the first time with the opening of Hansik Goo in Hong Kong. Presenting a progressive interpretation of beloved Korean dishes, Hansik Goo celebrates one of the cornerstones of Korean culinary culture—the authentic, family-style dining experience.

Kang graduated from Kyonggi University before interning at the Ritz-Carlton in Florida. Dedicated to learning about international cuisines, he further honed his culinary skills under the tutelage of Basque master Martín Berasategui and later joined Nobu in Miami and the Bahamas where he became the restaurant’s youngest head chef.

Dasik Sand

“I am a native Korean chef,” Kang explains. “Instead of studying at international culinary institutions, I gained my experience working at various locations around the globe – the US, Spain, France, the Bahamas – wherever I could enhance my culinary knowledge.”

Returning to Seoul, Kang focused his attention on Korean cooking and traditional temple cuisine. To refine his culinary philosophy, he consulted with local food experts including Buddhist monk Jeong Kwan and respected chef Chong Hee-Sook, recipient of the Best Female Chef in 2020. 

In 2014, Kang opened Mingles in Seoul’s bustling Gangnam district and introduced his signature style of melding eastern and


western cuisines and techniques. Acknowledging the award, Kang notes: “I am very grateful to receive the Inedit Damm Chefs’ Choice Award. I would like to express my gratitude to my fellow chefs who voted for me. This award is of special significance because it was voted for by other chefs who share my passion for excellence. While I still have a lot to learn, this award motivates my team and me to reach new heights.”

William Drew, Director of Content at Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, says: “Through the Inedit Damm Chefs’ Choice Award, Chef Mingoo Kang’s peers have shown their respect for his craftsmanship and artistry, as well as his ability to articulate Korean culinary culture on the international stage. Chef Kang reinterprets Korean cuisine in a modern context by combining contemporary techniques and local elements, striking a delicate balance between innovation and tradition.”

Berta Rius, Marketing Manager Asia and Pacific for Damm, says: “His passion for innovation, while remaining true to tradition, has enabled him to evolve Korean cuisine to the point of delivering a gastronomic experience at the highest level. His creativity, experience and culinary skills have earned him this well-deserved award.”

Chef Kang was voted by his fellow chefs on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list to be given the recognition, acknowledging his contributions to the region’s culinary scene.

Inedit Damm was created in 2008 by Damm’s master brewers, Ferran Adrià and the team of sommeliers at el Bulli. It is specially brewed to pair with the new gastronomy, full of contrasts and nuanced flavours. Inedit Damm is flavoured with spices, giving it its special taste and making it a one-of-a-kind beer that is creamy, soft and versatile.

The annual Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards ceremony will be broadcast on Thursday, 25th March, from 4.30pm (HK/SG; 5.30pm JPN), to a global audience via Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Facebook, the 50 Best Restaurants TV YouTube channel and Zoom.