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Local clubs offer unique dining experiences

Sept 20,2019
Members of the Chaine des Rotisseurs in Korea and their invited guests have an outdoor barbecue dinner at Le Meridien Seoul in southern Seoul. [CHAINE DES ROTISSEURS]
What to do when you’re in need of a dining mate but can’t find anyone to accompany you to a new restaurant opening in town or a hot spot in the city you’re visiting?

Worry no more, the answer is simple. Join a local club of food connoisseurs, which here in Seoul would be the Korean chapter of the Chaine des Rotisseurs, an international association of gastronomy.

The prestigious group, first founded in Paris in 1950, has about 25,000 members across around 80 countries and helps its members navigate the world of food in different cities worldwide. When the concept of gastronomy was not widespread in Korea decades ago, the members of the local chapter, which was founded in 1978, shared information about the food scene.

“One of the key advantages the members enjoy, compared to just joining a local group of foodies or online communities, is that they have a global community to explore,” said Kim Yeong-shim, a president of local restaurant Gastro Tong in Jongno District, central Seoul, adding that many of the members are experts in the food and beverage industries, including restaurateurs, general managers of hotels, chefs and more. “You can join events overseas and get more food and travel information from the people you meet there.”

Sometimes the dining experience you get as a member goes beyond just eating at an existing restaurant. Some events take you to China’s Great Wall or Korea’s demilitarized zone.

“There are many who have a wealth of travel memories, so they keep on looking for new and fun experiences,” said Kim Youn-young, president of the Korean restaurant brand Yong Su San, adding that young people becoming more comfortable speaking in foreign languages inspire them to continue to look for international members to join their community.

Roland Hinni, in charge of alcoholic beverages for the local chapter, says that coming up with dinner events for members takes creativity. Once, when the theme of the event was chocolate, staff dressed in shades of brown and painted their faces to appear as though they were chocolate sculptures.

“Things that make people curious [provide some fun],” said Hinni.

For more information about joining the local chapter, go to southkorea.chainedesrotisseurs.com. The first-time registration fee is 100,000 won ($84) along with an annual membership fee of 500,000 won. Each dinner is about 220,000 won, and there are a total of six dinners scheduled for this year.

BY LEE SUN-MIN [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]