South Korean monk Jeong Kwan is the 2022 recipient of the prestigious Icon Award – Asia 2022. Voted for by the 300-plus members of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy, the Icon Award honours culinary figures who have inspired others with their skills and positive contributions.
South Korean monk Jeong Kwan is the winner of the Icon Award as part of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2022 awards programme.
Growing up on a farm, Jeong Kwan developed a respect for seasonal produce from an early age. At 17, she left home to join a Buddhist monastery and immersed herself in the centuries-old traditions and cooking techniques of temple cuisine. Jeong Kwan’s impeccably crafted dishes reflect her innate creativity, technical skills, and deep respect for seasonal ingredients.
Jeong Kwan’s cuisine came to the world’s attention when French chef – and fellow Buddhist – Eric Ripert of New York’s famed Le Bernardin visited Baekyangsa, the seventh-century temple which Jeong Kwan calls home. Enchanted by her dishes, in 2015 he invited her to New York to prepare a meal for select guests. The subsequent profile in The New York Times described her dishes as “the most exquisite food in the world.” Her fame grew when she was featured in a 2017 episode of Netflix’s Emmy Award-winning Chef’s Table series.
Jeong Kwan continues to cook at the hermitage she shares with her fellow nuns and attracts a growing number of devotees to Baekyangsa Temple. Within her modest kitchen, visitors are educated on the Buddhist principles that underpin authentic temple food. Although she has never worked in or owned a restaurant, Jeong Kwan’s innovative cuisine places her in the vanguard of visionary chefs.
William Drew, Director of Content for Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, says: “A guardian of Korean temple cuisine, Jeong Kwan is confirming her status as an international culinary icon thanks to her refined mastery of flavours and spiritual approach to cooking.”
Accepting the award, Jeong Kwan said: “I am extremely honoured to receive the 2022 Icon Award. I am aware of the difficulties caused by the global pandemic and hope that the situation will improve so we can meet again to share food and positive energy.”
Jeong Kwan’s achievement will be highlighted as part of the online ceremony for Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2022 on 29th March, which will be broadcast to a global audience via Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Facebook and the 50 Best Restaurants TV YouTube channels.