gustatory exploits · the world is a stage

Drama Review: Learning from the Baker King

One of the most memorable Korean drama that I’ve watched was Baker King. When it was aired on a late night slot by GMA-7 late last year, I was really captivated. I don’t know what made this K-drama so freaking addicting. It might have been because I’m into baking and love breads…I don’t know. But one thing’s for sure, this drama is worth watching. Almost all of the friends I knew who watched it even inspired them also to bake and be better cooks.

Yoon Shi Yoon as Tak Gu
Joo Won as Ma Jun

For those who watched this 30-episode drama, you would understand why I became a big fan of Baker King. Not only does it have a superb cast, it has a solid storyline—a big reason why its ratings raked the charts despite being a low-budget production and was even branded as a “national drama.”  Aptly titled too as a story about bread, love and dreams, Baker King is  laden with life lessons that revolve around father and son, brother-to-brother, friendship, employee and employer relationship, and the typical bourgeois-proletariat theme that is a bit common in K-drama land.

The setting of the story takes us back to the ‘70s when the wife of Goo Il Jung, the president of a multi-billion bread manufacturing company, was in labor for their second daughter.

Seo Insuk (Jun Inhwa) and Manager Han (Jung SungMo)

Il Jung’s mother, Madam Hong, had long wanted Seo Insuk to give her son a baby boy who would one day take the reins of the company in the future. But she produced two daughters instead. That’s when Il Jung entertained the thought of having an illicit relationship with their long-time nurse, Jun Mi Sun. Their forbidden relationship brought forth Kim Tak Gu and of which grandmother approved. Unknown to Goo Il Jung’s family, however, the bitter wife, Insuk, also had a baby with Il Jung’s friend and manager, Manager Han to  whom she finally had a baby boy she named Ma Jun and passed off as Il Jung’s son. After finding out the truth about her husband’s relationship with Misun, she drove them out with the help of Manager Han who threatened Misun he would kill her and her baby if she ever showed up in front of Il Jung and his mother.

Jun Misun as Kim Misun or Tak Gu's mom and Jun Kwang Ryul as President Goo Il Jung

Twelve years later, Tak Gu has grown up young and smart, but he has a rare gift of smell. In a sudden twist of fate, he and his father were united much to the dismay of the “legitimate” family. But the consequences of his mother’s action led the story to so many unexpected twists. Tak Gu and his mother were separated and during the next years of his life, he spent it on the streets, living to fend for himself and searching the entire country for his mother.

One day, Tak Gu unexpectedly meets Master Pal Bong again, an old man whom he met as a child when he tried to escape Manager Han’s minions who tried to kill him.  Master Pal Bong took him in at the famous Pal Bong Bakery and there encountered Misun, the Master’s granddaughter and his “brother,” MaJun, who was using a different name (Seo TeJo).While staying at the bakery, Tak Gu was also reunited with his first love,  Shin Yu Kyung who later became MaJun’s wife.

Yoo Jin (Eugene) as Shin Yoo Kyung

How Tak Gu was able to overcome every hardship and heartaches was really very commendable. I laughed, cried and was always in anticipation in each episode. Seriously, because of its fast pacing, I was able to finish all 30 episodes in a flash. Needless to say, it was a roller coaster ride. It’s typical story of a Korean tradition about having a son which is important to families belonging to the chaebol. Personally, I first blamed the grandmother. If she had a different perspective in life, it wouldn’t have been difficult for Insuk. I pity Insuk because she really loves her husband, the president who could never love her in return (the pitfalls of arranged marriage). I also pity Ma Jun’s real father here because of Insuk’s ambition, he allowed himself to be used so he could also gain Ma Jun’s approval and gain Insuk’s love. He would do  everything to see Insuk and their son to take control of Geosung foods.

I was irritated at Tak Gu at first. I was hoping the writer of this drama did not characterize him that way. The fact is, he’s supposed to be street smart so a little shrewdness and tact would have been a good match against a cunning mind of Ma Jun. Towards the end, however, you would respect his character for his humility. Ma Jun, as a child, is full of insecurity because he knew all along that he is not the real son. But in the end, the President still considered him his own son, even when he knew in the end, he was Insuk’s son with another man. I was amazed at how the writer built up the characters of Ma-Jun and Shin Yu Kyung; Tak-Gu and Mi-Sun. Theirs is a “rocky” relationship, though I kind of anticipated how the love story structure would end. It’s just that I think K-dramas always go for the love “square” (not triangle). It was kind of predictable but it had ‘twists’ to it that’s why I like it. It wasn’t boring.

Misun (Lee Young Ah) and Tak Gu
Ma Jun and Shin Yu Kyung

But my real motivation in watching Baker King was because I like to bake. Just watching how Tak Gu learned and made bread was really adorable! I was really, really inspired to become a serious baker. The competition between Tak Gu and Ma Jun is so convincing you’d want to cheer them on. I also love the supporting characters in the show, the rest of the bakers at the shop and even Misun’s father who dislike Tak Gu at first but eventually loved him enough for his daughter. Thanks to this show, it encouraged me to bake more and more!

But the best thing I found watching this drama are the points I learned in baking. Such as when Tak Gu learned from President Il Jung, his father,  that when baking, moisture is very important to bring about a fluffy, soft texture to bread. I copied it once when I baked my banana bread, I put cold water in an aluminum cup and put it side by side with the bread I’m baking inside the oven. There is also something about making bread that you could relate to in your life. I remember the conversation when before Master Pal Bong died, he and Tak Gu got to bake bread together for the last time:

“Tak Gu-ya, why do you like bread?”

“I like the warm smell that comes from bread”

“Oh I see.”

“Why do you like bread, teacher?”

“Because it’s something that people eat.”

“Oh I see. Then I’ll change my answer into that too.”

“You little punk.” It was at this point, Master Pal Bong revealed that he actually knew that Ma Jun (Seo Tae Jo)  was Tak Gu’s brother.

It was also at this point he advised Tak Gu to hold on to his brother and not let him go despite all the trouble he caused him so he wouldn’t make the same mistake when he himself released his best friend. (In the story, Master Pal Bong’s friend became one of Tak Gu’s competitor in the baking industry.)

“And now what’re you going to do, Tak Gu?”

“I’m going to wait until the breads are baked.” Then Master Pal Bong said: “Life is like flower in the field that after it fades, it no longer knows where it goes. But I am very happy to meet you (Tak Gu) at the end of my life.” When the breads are baked, Master Pal Bong has gone for good.

And of course, who would forget the popular corn and barley bread Tak Gu made and which made him win in the first round of the competition?

Yummy! I want to bake one! 🙂

3 thoughts on “Drama Review: Learning from the Baker King

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