Thursday, September 6, 2012

Korean and Mexican chef's Love Story

A Kitchen love story became a fairy tale

Han Jo-eun, left, the pastry chef at the Millennium Seoul Hilton, poses with his wife, Montserrat Pineiro, the former executive chef at the Hilton Airport Hotel Mexico City, at the Seoul hotel’s kitchen, on Aug. 30.

/ Courtesy of Millennium Seoul Hilton

A brief Introduction

Once upon a time, there was a Korean chef he he. He met a Wonderful Mexican chef who came to Seoul for a Mexican food promotion. They fell in love. She went back to her homeland, but the distance didn’t stop their love for each other. He proposed to her and she said yes. They married and lived happily ever after.

This is not a fairytale but the true story of Millennium Seoul Hilton pastry chef Han Jo-eun and former Hilton Airport Hotel Mexico City executive chef Montserrat Pineiro, who are now expecting a baby.

Pineiro is temporarily back at her husband’s workplace for another food promotion to be held throughout September.

Chapter 1

Their love story goes back to 2010, although she visited the hotel a year earlier, too, when they didn’t meet each other. During the 2010 visit, they met often to discuss pastry menus for the promotion.

When seeing her for the first time, Han told one of his colleagues in Korean that she was beautiful. Then the colleague told this to Pineiro in English, which embarrassed Han. But she didn’t care at all at that time, although she also thought he was cute.

“While I was talking with the pastry team, his coworkers kept telling me, ‘He is a good man,’ but I didn’t care. I didn’t care about Korean men. I liked very much European or Canadian, but Korean and Asian men, I didn’t like. It was not my style,” the 31-year-old said.

On a day off, she said she would like to buy souvenirs for her colleagues in Mexico, and Han guided her to Insa-dong. It was their first date.

“While I was staying, he continued to be very cute every time I came to the pastry kitchen. I started falling in love. I don’t know how,” Pineiro said.

Han said, “She’s always cheerful. When she had arguments with others that might upset ordinary people, she smiled and made things harmonious. I liked her smile.”

Chapter 2

But she had to go back to her workplace in Mexico. They exchanged emails and talked over Skype for about a year: it was not easy because his English was not fluent and she had difficulty understanding his accent on the phone.

But the language barrier didn’t matter much as they learned how they felt toward each other.

“I had difficulty expressing my feelings in English. Writing email, I wrote short, casual greetings in English in the lead, and long, serious confessions in Korean at the bottom. I learned later that she asked her Korean friends there to translate it,” the 35-year-old husband said.

Last October, however, Pineiro said she would move to a restaurant in France. Han, who expected her to come to Korea, was disappointed.

“I thought it was over. I sent a long email to bid her good-bye, good luck and good health. But at the end of it, I added, ‘I want you and want you to come to me. There may be hardship but I believe we can manage to get through.’ Well, she didn’t reply for two weeks, and I thought it was really over.”

However, she called and said yes, she would come to Korea ― accepting his proposal.

Asked why she decided to marry him, Pineiro said, “I don’t know, it just happened. My family couldn’t believe it. But if you think somebody is the right person, you know.”

She came to Korea in November, and things went quickly, because they had to prepare everything for the wedding during her three-week stay.

“I called my parents and four sisters and notified that I would introduce my future wife to them. Not knowing about my relationship with Pineiro, they were all dumbstruck. But after meeting her, they said she looked nice and told me to marry her if she was the person I chose,” Han said.

Chapter 3

They married in January, honeymooned in Mexico, and settled in Seoul.

Pineiro planned to continue work here and gave advice to a Mexican restaurant for a short time after marriage. But she got pregnant, with a baby girl due in December.

“I wanted to continue working. Now we have a baby, and the plan changed. I didn’t want to get pregnant immediately, but all that changed. After six months or one year after delivery, I’ll work again absolutely because I’m not a kind of stay-at-home person,” the chef with a decade of experience said.

She is spending her life in Korea exploring the country, attending Korean language classes and visiting palaces and Buddhist temples.

But during September, she’s back at the kitchen of the hotel where their love began for a Mexican food promotion at buffet restaurant Orangerie.

“I’m making crab soup with tomato and chili broth, beef salad with potatoes, and Mexican-style sashimi. There are six main dishes and they change every three days. I also included some home-cooked dishes,” Pineiro said.

For more information about the promotion, call (02) 317-3143

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