Chef Joseph Lidgerwood is the talented mastermind behind 1-MICHELIN Star EVETT, located in Seoul, South Korea. Winner and first recipient of the 2021 MICHELIN Blancpain Young Chef Award, Chef Lidgerwood has explored the world through food, with roots in Tasmania, Australia and culinary experiences spanning from London to Nepal to Taiwan to San Francisco. Shara Narsipur on our Eat Blue™ team had the opportunity to speak with Chef Lidgerwood about his thoughts ideas, and passions around seafood, ocean health and food innovation.
Shara Narsipur: Tell us a bit more about your background. Why did you become a chef and what drew you to Korea?
Joseph Lidgerwood: I’m from Tasmania, Australia. One day, my mom asked me what I wanted to do, and she said I just said I’ll be a chef. I never really questioned it from that point on. In Tasmania, I got a job working at a bakery from when I was 15 and, from there, I just kind of moved from place to place. At that time there weren’t many really good restaurants that I wanted to work in as Tasmania is a small island, so I moved to the UK. After seven years in England I wanted to travel and see a bit more. So, we created a restaurant group that went to different countries to explore different cuisines and essentially we built a model so we could earn enough money to go to the next country and just see and cook as much as possible.
After that, I wanted to do a little bit more finishing school, so finished up in America at the French Laundry. I reached a point where I could either become sous chef at the French Laundry or open my own place and decided to open my own place. I was contacted by someone in Korea about opening a place here and I decided to do that.
Shara Narsipur: How does seafood play a role in your kitchen?
Joseph Lidgerwood: Seafood is one of my favorite things to eat, in general. It’s not only integral to my kitchen but to me, personally. It’s something I’ve always grown up with, from the time I was around 10 and had my own boat license in Tasmania.
As a chef, seafood is one of the most exciting things to work with. It’s very different from land animals in the variety and adaptability. At my restaurant, we do a lot of vegetable courses but seafood plays a large role in our dishes.
Shara Narsipur: What kind of influence does seafood have on Korean cuisine?
Joseph Lidgerwood: For large parts of Korean history, it was predominantly a Buddhist region during which there was little to no meat consumption. The food history in Korea features a lot of vegetables and seafood.
Shara Narsipur: Where does ocean health play a role in food?
Joseph Lidgerwood: I think any sensible person would realize, especially cooking now, that something needs to change. And the amount of change that needs to happen in the amount of time we have needs to be quite progressive. At the end of the day, we have finite resources and a growing population.
For example, the waters surrounding Korea are completely overfished. I was talking to a friend recently because we were going to go out fishing and we both realized that both the west and east overfished. Every year there seems to be less.
When you have more effective means of fishing and a growing population, overfishing will happen. At this rate, it won’t be long that we can have certain ingredients on our menu so we need to do what we can to preserve these important resources.
Shara Narsipur: We have read that EVETT sources local ingredients by foraging. Can you tell us more about this?
Joseph Lidgerwood: If you come to Korea and go to the countryside, its very likely you’ll see those from older generations in the mountains foraging for acorns and roots. Whenever I go out to collect, there will already be others out there collecting.
We go out in the spring up until the end of October to forage and just connect with our surroundings. Especially now, I feel like every year is different in regard to when ingredients become available because the weather is just so dynamic. But we do forage a lot of our ingredients and it’s also very nice for inspiration to be so connected to our environment. I find Korean ingredients, in particular, to be amazing.
For example, we collect hundreds of kilos of pinecones and pickle them down into a pinecone caviar that makes people really think about the ingredient and how special it is.
Shara Narsipur: What is one area that you lean into when you’re crafting your menu or your recipes?
Joseph Lidgerwood: We want to change perceptions of different ingredients to really make people appreciate what we have. Sometimes, the way people perceive food is so judgmental, like we’ve already eaten the dish before trying it. I want to present dishes or ingredients that make people think or change their perceptions. When we present something in a way that makes people realize how creative food can be, that brings me a lot of joy.
I also really want to showcase Korean ingredients to the world through the techniques, creativity and flavor. For example, utilizing different kinds of seaweed may not be traditional Korean cuisine but it’s quite fun to innovate like that.
Shara Narsipur: What drew you to food innovation and to push the boundaries in your methodology for your restaurant?
Joseph Lidgerwood: When I first started, I was just kind of excited to cook. As time went one, I felt that a lot of what I’d seen in cooking was the same. I wanted to find a way to bring more elements together, in a different kind of way. Then, when I went traveling, those experiences while cooking on the road became really meaningful to me – the food history around the world, people’s relationships with food. It was something I needed to incorporate into my own restaurant.
Shara Narsipur: As someone who has seen so many places and the cultural connections to food, what does food mean to you?
Food is people’s lives. From Nepal to Vietnam and everywhere around the world, people revolve around certain seasons in the year for different creations in food. Especially here in Korea, there’s thousands of years of food history. So, for me, food is the backbone of society. For example, you wouldn’t think to travel somewhere and not try the food. It’s such an integral part of people’s lives and the way you can understand them. Food is something that is really magical.