Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) – It’s a busy Saturday morning for South Korean Buddhist nun Jeong Kwan.
After practicing meditation and waking up early in the morning, Jungkwan takes care of her garden inside the Baekyangsa Temple in Naejangsan National Park, south of Seoul.
The scent of blooming coriander flowers fills the space and a wild deer eats the leaves in the garden.
Eggplant and green peppers are growing and the cabbage planted by the nun in winter is ready to be harvested.
“It’s beautiful because it has a lot of energy and it grows during the cold winter,” Jong Kwan told CNN.
Accidental kitchen star
Jung Kwan, and this is her Buddhist name, is not an ordinary nun, whose cooking in the temple was admired by the famous chef Eric Riper of “Le Bernardin” in a profile, written by Jeff Gordinier, a writer of known foods. in the American newspaper “The New York Times”, 2015.
She is also dedicated to a full episode of the famous series “Kitchen Table”, which aired on “Netflix”.
Finally, Jung Kwan received the iKON award for the 50 Best Restaurants in Asia for 2022, which celebrates culinary figures who have positively influenced and inspired others.
However, little in her world had changed.
“I am very honored to receive the iKON award,” said Jung Kwan. “You know, the truth of the matter is that I’m a nun, not a trained chef. It ‘s wonderful to hear that people around the world are interested in Korean Cuisine,” he said. to remain humble and not allow myself to boast. ”
Chef Dedicated to Buddhism, 1974.
Jung Kwan’s mother passed away when she was 17 years old. She recounted, “I was heartbroken and went to the temple 50 days later. There I met other monks who became my new family. I found enlightenment and joy through the practice of Buddhism and then decided that this is where I wanted to spend my life.”
The chef moved to her current home, Baekyangsa Temple, after three years of practicing Buddhism, which was 45 years ago.
What is temple food?
In 2013, Jungkwan decided to open the temple doors to visitors so that she could communicate with people who wanted to learn about Buddhism, especially through food.
“Temple food is the link that holds physical and mental energy together. It all has to do with maximizing the taste and nutrition of plant-based ingredients, with added and limited spices and seasonings,” said Jong Kwan.
Her diet consists of fresh organic ingredients, sauces and fermented dishes, such as bean paste and kimchi, that are grown or made in the temple.
There is no set menu, as the nun prepares the food according to the availability of any fresh produce on that day, so the dishes are distinguished by their great variety.
Jung Kwan believes that food can contribute to balancing the elements in our body by rehydrating it, or lowering body temperature, to achieve a harmonious state.
“Cooking is not about luxury”
Jung Kwan thinks her philosophy is especially important in our current world of challenges like pandemics, international conflicts and climate change.
The nun said, “We have had pandemics and epidemics before. I think it all has to do with our actions going against nature.”
She believes that society should focus on tackling climate change and respecting all forms of life.
“These things help us ‘get us back on track,'” she says.
Eating and cooking with care will enable us to “do whatever we need spiritually and physically,” even in times of distress.
Jung Kwan hopes she can use her newfound influence to spread these important messages around the world, as she asserts, “For me, cooking is not about luxury, or showing difficult skills, but merging with ingredients “.
The nun hopes to see others adopt a lifestyle that honors and respects nature and the environment, and promotes a sustainable lifestyle that has a positive impact on climate change and saves lives.