By Lily Meek
13th June 2019

There's nothing more refreshing than a movie that completely blows all your expectations and prejudices out of the water. If I'm being completely honest, I was quite reluctant after a long Tuesday at work to watch a Korean documentary about a nomadic chef. It is not an exaggeration to say that no film has ever surprised me to the extent of 'The Wandering Chef' by Hye-Ryoung Park.

The documentary explores the journey of Korean celebrity chef Jiho Im. After finding out he was adopted at a young age, he sets out on a journey to find his biological mother. Learning about her death, he soon receives news that the mother who raised him has also passed. 'The Wandering Chef' is a story far beyond creative cooking. Honest and raw, Park reveals a story of humanity and vulnerability. Jiho Im lives two lives - one of the successful chef, and the other a man passionate for food and community. On his travels he meets Soon-Gyu Kim, an elderly woman. In exchange for wisdom, Im cooks for her and her husband. Park's story is a reflection on an unlikely human connection, depicting how relationships have the capability to restore creativity and resolve unanswered questions about ourselves.


There is something commendable about Jiho Im's courage. His vulnerability is a true portrayal of his gumption. He immerses you in the narrative of his life and cooking, making viewers a participant within his story. Witnessing the companionship in existence between Soon-Gyu and Jiho is a privilege. Soon-Gyu presents him with an avenue to feel safe and comfortable in a way that only a mother could do. She makes up for his lost time and provides resolution for something within him that was once broken. Soon-Gyu is a force to be reckoned with. If Im doesn't draw you in, then Kim certainly will. Cheeky, kind, and the embodiment of unconditional love, this little old lady really does epitomise the kind of old we all want to be. It is her presence that lies at the heart of the film, the rest is merely a dedication to her welcoming spirit. There are few films that I can recall that really grant you the access to witness something as special as this. If the relationship of these two doesn't have your heart singing, then the motivation to find yourself inspired by the film will.

The standout of this film is its ability to reflect back inherit values we wish we possessed, especially in times of trial.

A little amateur at times in light of the cinematography and sound, this all becomes nothing short of charming in light of the film’s story. 'The Wandering Chef' is the perfect example of how a strong and gratifying narrative can leave technicalities and logistics in the dust. People crave real-life examples of overcoming struggle and suffering, to help us to overcome our own challenges. Im's story is one of honesty, relatability and discovery. It's a display of human trials and how to overcome obstacles with humility and grace. The standout of this film is its ability to reflect back inherit values we wish we possessed, especially in times of trial. Its greatest asset is the life lessons it teaches.

Looking for more Sydney Film Festival reviews? Click here to check out our collection of this year's highlights.
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