Celebrity Chef Baek Jong Won’s Show “CEO Baek” Sparks Debate On Racism And Mockery Between Moroccans And Koreans

The show filmed its latest episode in a Moroccan night market.

Celebrity chef Baek Jong Won‘s new reality show, Business Genius CEO Baek recently filmed an episode in Morocco. Following the show’s concept of manning food stalls globally, they set up a stall at a Moroccan night market. Thanks to the novelty factor of Korean food and the star factor of the show, they drew quite a crowd.

The menu was kept simple — bulgogi, bulgogi burgers, and galbitang. The team went with a beef focus, as Muslims are unable to eat pork.

The team’s tent and menu.

The crowd was huge!

The crowd at the tent.

The light suddenly went off just as business was booming. Although the director tried the switches to turn the lights back on, the tent remained dark as if the electricity had been cut off.

The lights going out.

A Moroccan part-timer that the team had hired to help them on their journey, Ahmed, quickly got on a call with someone. After the call ended, he grabbed BamBam and asked him to convey the message to Baek Jong Won.

Listen. Tell the chef that we are finished. No more serving people. [They] didn’t say. Some problem. I don’t know why. That’s what they just told me. We need to stop serving people.

— Ahmed

Later, Ahmed continued to warn the other team members, such as Lee Jang Woo, to stop cooking as the night market’s authorities told him they were not allowed to continue serving. The team went on to discuss the matter with their interpreter, Simon.

BamBam seemed anxious about the situation, telling Baek Jong Won that “the market seems to be the one that is stopping their business.” Baek Jong Won kept calm and told his team to just serve the existing customers well since they could not let in new customers.

BamBam explaining the situation.

The sudden news also caused lots of food wastage. The team had been cooking bulk quantities on the grill but could not serve new customers.

The food that had been prepared.

After just an hour and ten minutes, the first day of business ended due to the unexpected situation.

To show the team’s struggles in getting their business off the ground, the production team also chose to include a clip where a Moroccan had been doubtful about the food. The Moroccan had asked what it was, and Ahmed explained it was beef. Later on, the Moroccan was recorded saying, “Can we eat this? These people (Korean) are said to eat frogs!”

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The show ended on a good note as the production team managed to find a different location for business the next day. They found a stall that was not part of a night market, that was willing to rent their premises to the team.

Despite the eventual success, the show sparked a debate between Koreans and Moroccans. Some Koreans felt it was a show of racism, accusing the night market authorities of shutting the tent down simply because it was doing better than the local stalls. Others blamed the production team for their shortsightedness.

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  • Morocco doesn’t really have a good image, but I think after this, they really cemented it.
  • Firstly, the production team was shortsighted, and because it is a floating population there, the store owners were having it easy. Of course, they would have complaints about this.
  • Baek Jong Won, have strength! Don’t be hurt, and you’ve worked hard.
  • But really, when you watch the second half of the first episode and the entire second episode, there are two to three young men standing around the tent, controlling things. I thought they were part of the team… Seems like they stood there to stop people from going in.
  • Both the Moroccans and the production team… sigh. Baek Jong Won, who was the victim, suffered so much… I hope he gains strength.
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I felt so uncomfortable the entire time I was watching this because it was such an anxious situation. I think the production team chose a concept that was too much in the first place. If they had provided an interpreter to stick close to them, maybe the situation would have been solved positively and they would not face suspicion and discomfort. Baek Jong Won would also not be misunderstood for having cooked frogs or whatever and they would be less stressed. Feels like they just struggled for nothing, just to make things look more real. There are religious issues in the midst of it too, so I was anxious that a huge problem would happen if something went wrong. When I saw the title of the show, I thought that Baek Jong Won could use his abilities to improve Korean food’s image and help expand it. But compared to the title, it’s quite a frustrating program.

— YouTube Comment

On the other hand, other Koreans defended the Moroccan side, claiming that a huge production team suddenly inserting itself into a night market was a definite disturbance to local business.

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  • It wasn’t a misunderstanding about the frog dishes, but racism. There was even a Halal mark obviously pasted on [the tent], and there were many people in the tent, so I don’t think it’s an issue of not having any interpreter around.
  • Marrakesh and Jemaa el-Fna Square are both huge tourist places in Morocco. They’re really on such a large scale that you can’t imagine it. In such places, the ones who have been around for a long time have their businesses in Jemaa el-Fna, and so if new people suddenly come to make business, they would feel like their customers are being stolen. That is considered a disturbance to business. I don’t think that it is racism. I think the production team was ignorant about the businesses in Jemaa el-Fna. I think if the team had gone there two weeks early to explain the concept and that they would only be here for a day to a few, asking for guidance, I think they would’ve been welcomed with open arms.

On the other hand, Moroccans have been expressing their displeasure through Baek Jong Won’s Instagram.

| @baekjongwon_cuisine/Instagram
| @baekjongwon_cuisine/Instagram

They saw the broadcast as a way of putting down the Moroccan people, displaying a bad image of the country to the rest of the audience.

So far, the show has not given a statement regarding the controversy.

Source: Instagram and YouTube