By Natalee Kerr
Spam mixed with hot dogs, rice cakes, baked beans and kimchi is a dish that means a lot to Korean cooking instructor Heather Jeong.
Known as Budae-jjigae or “Korean army stew”, the dish was her father’s favourite – something she describes as “heartbreaking and funny”.
Jeong tells the Independent her family faced a nearly decade-long separation following her father’s immigration to Australia.
At the age of nine, Jeong arrived in Australia from Korea – where she met her father for the first time.
Jeong explains the separation caused her to struggle with “daughterly love”.
“We shared a difficult relationship,” she said.
“We didn’t get a long very well.”
Jeong describes her arrival to Australia as a “unique” story that not many people know about.
“A lot of people hear about how migrants come to Australia but they don’t know on a personal level what it’s like living in a migrant home,” she said.
“There was not a lot of Asians in our neck of the woods.”
Growing up, Jeong didn’t want to become a lawyer or doctor – much to her parents’ disappointment.
“All I wanted to do was cook,” she said.
“My parents didn’t want me to become a chef, but I followed my passion.”
Jeong’s personal story is part of new production called Double Delicious – an “interactive” culinary experience coming to Geelong next month.
The show brings together five well-known storyteller-cooks to share the secrets behind the most symbolic dishes in their lives.
The cast reveal intimate tales while slicing, stirring and serving personally and culturally-significant cuisine.
Each story results in an authentic recreation of the storyteller’s chosen meal – with the audience having the opportunity to taste each dish.
Jeong stars alongside celebrity chef Elizabeth Chong, writer Benjamin Law, performer Valerie Berry and dancer Raghav Handa.
While telling her story, Jeong showcases her love for kimchi – a traditional chilli-spiked, fermented cabbage.
“I say that I knew about kimchi before I was born. It will be the last thing I’ll eat before I die,” she laughs.
“It’s a part of me forever – I eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
“Some of my earliest memories are of me helping my grandmother make kimchi – she would use 300 cabbages at a time.”
In comparison, Jeong expects to go through just 20 cabbages when she prepares her Korean staple for Geelong audiences.
“I’m this cabbage-throwing woman, it’s quite funny,” she said.
“I didn’t realise there was such a theatrical element to making kimchi until this show.”
Double Delicious will play seven shows at the Geelong Arts Centre from 19 to 22 February.