We don’t usually watch trailers for the dramas that look interesting to us, but with Love Cuisine, for some reason, we decided to. There were two trailers, one for each of the lead characters describing a food or a drink that matched to the character themselves: the male lead character, Han Jie (Lego Li), is described as a heavenly fish steak that is refined by white wine and finished off with a creamy sauce that warms the heart. And the female lead character, Fang Xiao Rou (Allison Lin), is described as a deceptively simple and innocent sunshine orange juice; however, she is in fact an incredibly intoxicating sunshine orange cocktail.
These trailers sold us into choosing Love Cuisine as our next on-air drama to watch. The trailers seemed to exert Love Cuisine as a romance/comedy series that will be light, fun and simple with a cooking theme. After watching a period of action dramas, light, fun and simple was exactly what we were looking for and so we decided Love Cuisine was going to be our next on-air drama we were going to watch as it aired!
Recap and Thoughts
Episode 1 opens with a sky shot of the ocean and seaside rocks before we head underwater. A school of fish is seen perusing underwater rocks. A mermaid is also seen perusing here. We’re then taken up above the water as if we were following the eyes of the mermaid. We see seaside rocks in the distance. Cut shot onto the seaside rocks, we see Han Jie heading towards the seaside rocks’ edge. He sets himself next to an old man fishing. Han Jie is fishing, too. After Han Jie has his fishing line into the water, the old man tells him he won’t be able to catch fish from his position because the wind direction is all wrong. Han Jie disagrees and asks the old man to give him thirty minutes. Sure enough, Han Jie proves the old man wrong when he reels in a fish in two and a half minutes. The old man is impressed.
Han Jie goes in for a second round. This time, he’s baffled to what he has hooked onto as we see an unidentified object on his hook. Then, in slow motion, a mermaid surfaces from the waters, flipping her short wet hair away from her face. The old man runs behind to somewhere out of shot exclaiming it’s a sea monster, but it’s just Fang Xiao Rou in a mermaid costume. Fang Xiao Rou notices Han Jie on the seaside rocks looking her way. She tries to pull her mermaid costume higher to cover herself more. The costume not doing well to cover her, she places her arms around her chest and tells Han Jie to look away. He does.
“Don’t run away!” Fang Xiao Rou then exclaims. “I’m not running away,” Han Jie replies. But Fang Xiao Rou wasn’t referring to Han Jie but a young guy in a red Hawaiian shirt behind him who’s climbing onto the seaside rocks. Han Jie is a little baffled with what’s going on, but he holds the young guy back. He then asks him why he’s being chased by a mermaid. It’s not a mermaid but his mentally-unstable man-eater of an older sister who is in such a state after being dumped by a guy, the young guy replies. After a suggestion from Han Jie to simply take his older sister to a hospital, the young guy finishes up with saying he needs to escape; and he escapes. Fang Xiao Rou finally is on land. She storms up to Han Jie and asks why he hadn’t stopped the young guy. In her fury, she becomes unsteady. Han Jie steadies her by her bare shoulders. This gains him a deathly glare from Fang Xiao Rou, not at all appreciative that he had just prevented her from a very likely injurious fall. Han Jie removes his hold on her. She then storms past to continue her pursuit of the young guy—but not before Han Jie advises Fang Xiao Rou to change out of her mermaid costume first. This only got a bark from Fang Xiao Rou telling him he was wasting her time!
It’s a very unusual location to have the lead characters first meet, but the opening scene definitely got our attention and piqued our interest. This sort of classic clash of personalities of the lead characters will bring in the typical and predictable, but what comes with the typical and predictable is the extremely fun and entertaining hate-hate-turn-interest-type developments that we like. The opening scene also sets the feel of the series to be light, funny and maybe a little zany as well.
We suspect after Han Jie finished fishing, he went straight home to cook what he had caught because we see him cooking at his family home in the very next scene he appears in. A table is set and Han Jie calls his parents to eat. The dish he has cooked for his parents is Saffron Bouillabaise. This is a dish he created and is the signature dish of his famous restaurant in Europe. “It’s delicious!” his father says after having a taste of the Saffron Bouillabaise. “The fish was freshly caught. How can it not be good?” Han Jie replies. So it seems Han Jie did come straight home to cook after fishing!
From this, we can see that Han Jie has world class cooking skills with a prestigious reputation in the world of cuisine. We also find out from this scene that Han Jie is going to be a teacher in Si Ping High School—a school where his father is the principal of and he has the task of getting the cooking skills of the Food and Beverage students up to competition level because their school has miserably lost many years in a row at the inter-school competitions. This is a goal he has to achieve for his father. He also has a goal of his own and it is for someone important, but this isn’t revealed at this point in the episode. We get an idea of what this goal of Han Jie’s is a little later on in the episode in various scenes: we see a flashback of Han Jie’s showing a cooking accident that he caused. This sees his old cooking teacher no longer able to use his right arm well. The goal has something to do with his old cooking teacher.
We come to a scene in Fang Xiao Rou’s apartment where she is hanging up her mermaid costume to dry whilst she is talking to her friend, Jiang Pei Ying (Nita Lei).
Here, we come to a sequence of scenes showing the events leading up to Fang Xiao Rou’s chase of the young guy in the ocean. This young guy is Fang Xiao Rou’s student, Ma Chong Sheng (Hong Yan Xiang)—a student who regularly tries to skip class and he was on a cruise yacht heading to Okinawa—one where Fang Xiao Rou seemed to be a barmaid there. (This explains the mermaid costume!) To escape his teacher, Ma Chong Sheng jumped off. Fang Xiao Rou also jumped off to stop him from escaping.
We come back to present time. Thinking what we were thinking, Jiang Pei Ying asks Fang Xiao Rou why she would go to such extent as a teacher—because, she who was a teacher herself, would not. Doing a good enough job was good enough for her. Fang Xiao Rou answers that it’s because of the vow she had made on her first day of teaching: she vowed to not have one student slip through the cracks under her care. All of her students must graduate. With everything explained, the conversation changes onto talking about the excitement of the entrance of a new teacher that is to start tomorrow—the one they call, ‘Senior’.
We move to Si Ping High School. It is a new semester and on a wide and open sports ground, we see students in uniform lined up and listening to the principal of the school making a speech on the announcement area above and in between the bleachers. Three teachers are seen standing on his right—Fang Xiao Rou’s friend, Jiang Pei Ying, a dean of the high school and one who’s an admirer of Fang Xiao Rou. Fang Xiao Rou is conveniently positioned below on the sports ground at front row and directly in front of the announcement podium where she will get a very good view of Han Jie when he gets introduced. After the principal finishes his speech, first entering, is the second male lead, Wen Zhen Yu (Duncan Chow)—the one Fang Xiao Rou refers to as ‘Senior’. He appears from a door on the left of the principal. Claps come from everyone and Wen Zhen Yu politely bows his head to them. Next is the fun one: Han Jie. He appears from a door on the right of the principal. The great view Fang Xiao Rou has of the people up on the announcement area, Fang Xiao Rou immediately recognises Han Jie and says aloud, ‘Daredevil?’ before hugging her arms around her chest. (We’re not sure why Han Jie’s nickname is Daredevil. It could possibly be because he dared to stare at her in the mermaid costume that was struggling to cover her chest whilst she was in the water or maybe that he dared to grab her by her bare shoulders when she had tripped and he needed to catch her? Not sure.) Han Jie also sees Fang Xiao Rou from his position, expressing aloud—’Mermaid?’
Han Jie and Wen Zhen Yu join Fang Xiao Rou as Food and Beverage teachers.
Through the conversation with Jiang Pei Ying in the apartment scene earlier, Fang Xiao Rou reveals to us that Wen Zhen Yu was her cooking teacher. He is the second most influential person in her life (the most influential person in her life being her dad) and is someone she respects and admires a lot. In the scenes following the announcement of the new teachers at Si Ping High School, we see her secretly putting a container of homemade cookies on Wen Zhen Yu’s chair with a note to meet her at the roof garden, writing notes for him on a blackboard and sticking a sticky note on his desk asking him to meet up for dinner after work. Indeed, she seems to like Wen Zhen Yu a lot. None of these actions that she does in secret gets to Wen Zhen Yu though since it seems the stars are not aligned correctly and the powers that be wishes for Han Jie to always be the one her gifts go to and the one she keeps meeting up with—because Han Jie really does appear before her a lot and very rarely does Wen Zhen Yu appear before Fang Xiao Rou!
Wen Zhen Yu is put forth as the better guy through Fang Xiao Rou, but also others. He has an air about him that seems to make people pick him out as someone of status. The dean of Si Ping High School, Su Ying Jun (Wu Zhong Jiang), surely feels he is. Just by comparing the look of Wen Zhen Yu and Han Jie, the dean picks Wen Zhen Yu as the more likely one to being the principal’s son. Su Ying Jun being a character with the personality of a brown noser, when he sees Han Jie’s assigned desk to be larger, more spacious and with better lighting and in a better location of the faculty office where a sweep of all the other desks can be done, he takes upon himself to immediately swap the desk name labels around so that Wen Zhen Yu got the larger, more spacious desk with better lighting and location. And Han Jie, he gave Wen Zhen Yu’s small cubicle that was in a darker area of the faculty office to him. Such an insignificant person as Han Jie shouldn’t have such a grand desk, he reasons.
No one knowing who the principal’s son was and causing people to speculate was per Han Jie’s request to his father. He had asked his father to not reveal the father-son relationship he had with him. This sort of set up we like a lot. Han Jie’s colleagues misattributing his relationship with the principal to Wen Zhen Yu will bring in some fun and exciting scenes. We’re looking forward to seeing the dean’s reaction when he realises he’s got it wrong and we’ll be waiting to see if he will try to suck up to the real son of the principal who is not as insignificant as he first thought because he is also the famous chef, Oscar Han—the head chef of the renown three Michelin star restaurant in Europe, Olives House!
Wen Zhen Yu is actually let in on the fact that Han Jie is the famous chef, Oscar Han, though. Wen Zhen Yu found out when Han Jie had asked Wen Zhen Yu if he wanted some homemade cookies (Fang Xiao Rou’s homemade cookies which she had left on Wen Zhen Yu’s chair, but became Han Jie’s chair after the desk swap and hence the cookies were in Han Jie’s possession). Wen Zhen Yu had gone over to Han Jie’s desk to take up on his offer. As he did so, he noticed Han Jie’s photo on the Olives House website Han Jie was looking at on his computer and found out like that. We wonder why he was let in on this. Why was Wen Zhen Yu let in on this knowledge when all other characters were kept in the dark?
There’s actually something mysterious about Wen Zhen Yu’s character and backstory, though; and we aren’t at all clued in on it. After Wen Zhen Yu finds out that Han Jie is the famous Oscar Han, Wen Zhen Yu asks Han Jie when he could try his cooking. This leads to a scene where Han Jie and Wen Zhen Yu are in a restaurant kitchen cooking. We then see their dishes being judged by the chef (or owner) of the restaurant. Both their dishes get praised as being of an exceptional standard and both are as good as the other. After Han Jie praises Wen Zhen Yu’s cooking skills, he asks Wen Zhen Yu where he was trained. When Wen Zhen Yu tells Han Jie where he was trained, Han Jie responds with saying that only a successor of a restaurant would go there to train. Han Jie then asks Wen Zhen Yu who he is, but Wen Zhen Yu just directs a question back to Han Jie, asking if he wanted to try his cooking and we don’t hear him answer Han Jie’s curiosity regarding who he is. Wen Zhen Yu definitely looks to be someone more than he appears to be.
In the closing scene of the episode, we see Han Jie standing beside his parked car outside his old teacher’s residence. In the quiet streets of a sleeping neighbourhood, as Han Jie faces his old cooking teacher’s residence, he tells his old cooking teacher that he has been to all the places that he has been to and learned all the dishes he has. He has now come back to help finish his old cooking teacher’s career.
In between this scene, a cut shot inside Han Jie’s old cooking teacher’s home reveals the face of this old cooking teacher of Han Jie’s. It was not until we saw this cut shot showing the face of Han Jie’s old cooking teacher that we realised that he was the same old man in the scene we saw earlier in the episode where there was a picture of this old man with Fang Xiao Rou displayed in his lounge area! Going back and taking a closer look at that earlier scene, we realise he’s most definitely Fang Xiao Rou’s dad because adjacent that photo were certificates—certificates with the name ‘Fang Ming Kai’. With this clue then, until proven otherwise, for now, we’ll be taking Fang Xiao Rou’s father as being Han Jie’s old cooking teacher!
So it seems Han Jie’s old cooking teacher is Fang Xiao Rou’s dad and he has a goal that could possibly be the same as Fang Xiao Rou’s: he looks to be wanting to pass on his knowledge in cooking to others. We also see that Han Jie and Fang Xiao Rou are not completely strangers. They have a previous connection through Fang Xiao Rou’s father. This makes us believe that in the future when Han Jie finds the connection, he will also feel indebted to Fang Xiao Rou by way of transference. It will definitely build some great scenes for the pairing if this is the case!
We then see a drunk Fang Xiao Rou enter into the vicinity of where Han Jie is. She is drunk from eight glasses of red wine due to spending two hours at a restaurant waiting for Wen Zhen Yu to show up, but he never shows up (he was with Han Jie comparing their cooking skills all evening). Wen Zhen Yu didn’t show up not because he stood her up, though. It was because he never got the message to meet up with her. Earlier in the day, Fang Xiao Rou had written a sticky note for Wen Zhen Yu to meet up and she had stuck it on his desk for him to read it. (It was the only way to communicate with him since he wasn’t around for her to talk to him and she didn’t have his number.) But, like Fang Xiao Rou’s homemade cookies and her accompanying note to meet up at morning break that Wen Zhen Yu never received (it ended up with Han Jie instead because of the desk swap and we guess he kept it), again this one doesn’t get to Wen Zhen Yu because, just as Wen Zhen Yu was at his desk with the chance to notice that sticky note, Han Jie asks Wen Zhen Yu if he wanted to try some homemade cookies. This caused Wen Zhen Yu to place the stack of books he was holding right on top of Fang Xiao Rou’s sticky note and he left to accept Han Jie’s offering of the cookies.
When Han Jie asked Wen Zhen Yu if he wanted some of those homemade cookies made by Fang Xiao Rou, it felt like Han Jie was trying to help Fang Xiao Rou correct the mishap that occurred. We like to believe he was actually trying to do a nice thing for Fang Xiao Rou when he shared the cookies with Wen Zhen Yu—that he was thinking about directing at least one cookie back to the rightful owner; but, unknowingly and unfortunately, he caused another one that was bigger and more heartbreaking for Fang Xiao Rou! Poor Fang Xiao Rou. It seems like she’ll never get her chance to spend some time with her Senior!
Fang Xiao Rou doesn’t seem to have trouble meeting up with Han Jie, though! He’s just some metres behind her! We hear Fang Xiao Rou shout, “I’m heartbroken!” before we see Han Jie spotting her. Han Jie seems to be trying to not be noticed by Fang Xiao Rou as he turns his head away from her view. Unfortunately, Fang Xiao Rou does spot him. She heads over to Han Jie and asks why it’s him and not Wen Zhen Yu (the powers that be are wanting you to be with Han Jie, that’s why! Look at how many of your gifts and notes keep going to Han Jie? That’s right! Han Jie! :oP :oP). Han Jie apologises and says that he was with Wen Zhen Yu for the evening and didn’t know she had made plans to meet him. Fang Xiao Rou lurches at him—probably going in for his chest area, but ends up—grabbing his pants in her drunken state. Han Jie is shocked and asks what she was doing. Fang Xiao Rou just continues to ask him why he was with Wen Zhen Yu. Han Jie struggles with Fang Xiao Rou’s strong hold on his pants. With Fang Xiao Rou’s persistent pulling of Han Jie’s pants, the next thing that happens is Han Jie tumbling forward.
What we expected to come next was for Han Jie to fall on top of Fang Xiao Rou and kiss. But Han Jie’s lips didn’t land on Fang Xiao Rou’s. It landed on the cold and hard concrete (or rather glass, showing us how smacked against Han Jie’s lips were on the concrete)! Han Jie then gets back up. He looks at the scrape that’s on his elbow, unimpressed. He then looks around the vicinity before seeing Fang Xiao Rou still sprawled on the ground looking like a turtle on its back, unable to flip itself back around without help. Han Jie goes and helps her back up. He then lifts her up from under the armpits and quickly moves her to the passenger door of his car. He looks at his scraped elbow, unimpressed once again, before he gets out the keys to his car. He’s interrupted when he sees Fang Xiao Rou rolling around and about to slide down. Han Jie stabilises her again. He keeps an arm on the car to stop Fang Xiao Rou rolling around and sliding down as he puts his keys to the passenger door, but it’s not good enough and we see Fang Xiao Rou sliding down, sitting on the ground and grabbing hold of Han Jie’s pants once again. Han Jie expresses annoyance with arms in the air.
Whilst this was all happening, unknown to Han Jie and Fang Xiao Rou, all of it was being captured on camera!
The first episode has matched our expectations! We love the cooking theme. It’s light, simple and fun. It’s exactly what we were looking for!
We’re already loving the characterisations of the lead characters, Han Jie and Fang Xiao Rou. When we watched the trailer featuring Han Jie’s character, he came off as being arrogant. But after watching the first episode, the character is far from arrogant. He’s simply strict (on others and himself), commanding and confident with heart. We were really surprised when Han Jie actually apologised to Fang Xiao Rou for taking Wen Zhen Yu away from her when he knew nothing of her dinner plans with Wen Zhen Yu.
Fang Xiao Rou, she’s gentle and nurturing, a bit geeky and has a naïveness about her. She’s feisty, but only towards Han Jie. She’s quite pleasant to everyone else. This type of character compliments a confident, strict, talented and worldly character like Han Jie. So, we enjoy Fang Xiao Rou for that reason.
It’s great to see Allison Lin as the lead in this series. We came across Allison Lin through one of our all-time favourite series, Rock ‘n’ Road (2014 Taiwanese idol drama starring Chris Wu and Kimi Hsia). In Rock ‘n’ Road, Allison Lin was just a supporting character who was the assistant to a character played by a fellow actress of this series, Nita Lei. In Rock ‘n’ Road, Nita Lei played a demanding popstar who ordered Allison Lin’s character around. In this series, the cast hierarchy switches around as Nita Lei plays the supporting role of the best friend of Allison Lin’s character. So, it’s awesome to see Allison Lin and Nita Lei come together once again in this series; and as BFFs too!
Lego Li, we have actually never really watched a series starring or featuring Lego Li. The only one we sort of have seen him in is in Honey and Clover, the 2009 Taiwanese adaptation of the Japanese manga. We say, ‘sort of’, because we’ve only seen bits and pieces of Honey and Clover. But from the bits and pieces of Honey and Clover that we have seen, we did catch onto Lego Li’s character and we liked him there. And so, coming into Love Cuisine, we had a positive opinion of Lego Li. Love Cuisine is our first series that we’re following featuring/starring Lego Li and we have to say, we’re really liking Lego Li in Love Cuisine a lot!
Love Cuisine: very cool so far! We’re extremely looking forward to watching Episode 2!