A French chef adopted from Korea went from finding Korean food to be “too spicy” to loving it enough to move to Korea to learn more.
Born in Korea in 1986, Damien Selme, now 36, was adopted and moved to France at 6 months old. After completing his culinary education in 2004, Selme went on to intern and later work as chef at several Michelin star restaurants throughout France.
After meeting a Korean intern while studying at Les Restaurant des Rois, Selme decided to travel to Korea in 2009 for a two-week vacation. During his visit, he decided to permanently move to Korea and began working as a chef at the Korea Furniture Museum in 2010.
Since then, Selme has worked as a chef at several five-star hotels, including the Park Hyatt in Busan and the Park Hyatt in Shanghai and is now executive chef at the Andaz Seoul of Gangnam. He was also chosen as the chef for the 2010 G20 summit luncheon held in Seoul.
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Selme has been on a steady quest to discover the flavors of Korean cuisine. In an interview with The Korea Times on March 4 at the Andaz Seoul Hotel- Gangnam, he shared his journey of going from being unable to understand Korean culinary culture – finding everything “too spicy and red” and “very strong” smelling – to falling in love with the cuisine. He described common Korean dishes such as Gamjatang (pork back-bone stew) and Sundaeguk (soup of Korean blood sausage) as “healthy instant food.”
“You just cook, boil and you’re done. There are not too many steps and you respect the ingredients” Selme said, contrasting it with Chinese cuisine, “where everything is heavy, oil, and deep-fried.”
Selme described his trip to Korea as opening a “whole new chapter” in his career, adding “another dimension of gastronomic experience.” He expressed his interest in trying out fermentation, which is a central process to many of Korea’s traditional dishes including kimchi and doenjang (soy bean paste).
On Selme’s personal Instagram page, he shares pictures of some of the most exquisite dishes, including a roasted lobster tail with marinated pear, a kumquat pickle and maltaise sauce, plated beautifully in front of a water view from the Park Hyatt Hotel Busan’s living room.
Selme currently heads a team of 45 chefs at the Andaz, a branch of the Hyatt brand located in the trendy area of Apgujeong-dong in Seoul.