Why the Best Reality Show May Be One You’ve Never Heard of

Prime Video’s South Korean program “Jinny’s Kitchen” features “Parasite” star Choi Woo-shik, “The Marvels” actor Park Seo-joon and BTS’ V

"Jinny's Kitchen" Season 1 (Prime Video)
"Jinny's Kitchen" Season 1 (Prime Video)

There are plenty of quality food- and cooking-related reality television programs worth queueing up — from competition shows “Top Chef” and “Great British Bake-Off,” to celebrity travel docuseries “Everybody Feed Phil” and Padma Lakshmi’s “Taste the Nation.” But there’s a really good program that may have slipped under the radar: the feel-good South Korean reality show “Jinny’s Kitchen,” which is gearing up to premiere its second season June 28 on Prime Video.

Originally debuting last February, “Jinny’s Kitchen” — the first Korean reality show to premiere on Prime Video — follows famous South Korean entertainers as they attempt to open and run a Korean restaurant in a foreign city. The first season features real-life best friends Choi Woo-shik (“Parasite”), Park Seo-joon (“The Marvels”) and BTS singer V, who goes by his real name Kim Tae-hyung on the show, along with veteran actors Lee Seo-jin and Jung Yu-mi.

The show’s general conceit is quite simple (and will likely follow a similar blueprint in Season 2): Led by Lee Seo-jin, the de facto restaurant “owner,” the fivesome open an outdoor restaurant to introduce Korean street food to locals and tourists in the heart of the sun-soaked beachside town of Bacalar, Mexico.

They cook and serve classic Korean dishes such as kimbap, spicy fried chicken and cheese ramen to paying customers, while trying to accomplish their boss’ daily sales goals. The famous employees also complete menial tasks — everything from washing dishes and prepping ingredients to grocery shopping and strategizing over the next day’s menu. On the rare off day, they go jet skiing, swim at the local lake and watch the World Cup.

"Jinny's Kitchen" Season 1 poster (Prime Video)
“Jinny’s Kitchen” Season 1 poster (Prime Video)

The majority of the cast — minus V, who is currently serving out South Korea’s mandatory military conscription for able-bodied men — is set to return for the new season, which moves the action to Reykjavík, Iceland. Actress Ko Min-si (“Youth in May”) will take the singer’s place. Earlier this month, Prime Video released a teaser trailer previewing the upcoming season, and it’s safe to say the ingredients that make the show’s first season so endearing to watch still remain.

What makes “Jinny’s Kitchen” stand out is how wholesome and unpretentious it is. There’s always inherent risk when dropping celebrities into a fish-out-of-water situation like operating an amateur restaurant where they’re responsible for every aspect of it going smoothly.

Part of that credit goes to the likable personalities of the cast, many of whom have previously worked together or are friends off-screen, creating an unspoken shorthand that breeds unique and funny group dynamics. It’s also comforting watching someone as famous as BTS’ V, who has millions of fans worldwide, temporarily leave his glitzy lifestyle in exchange for a kitchen apron and a frying pan — and be totally game for it.

Like any well-produced show, there is a narrative arc to follow on “Jinny’s Kitchen,” even if it is a simple one. The early episodes chart the steep learning curve that plague the crew; they make mistakes in the kitchen, are slow to prep ingredients and barely have any customers to serve.

Even if they’re struggling, there’s never any doubt that they’re fully enjoying the process — greeting locals and tourists with genuine smiles, happily answering questions about the menu and secretly watching the guests enjoy their food. By the end of the season, they’re a well-oiled machine, with many of them showing remarkable improvement in their cooking and customer service skills, and the restaurant gaining popularity because of it.

"Jinny's Kitchen" Season 2 (Prime Video)
“Jinny’s Kitchen” Season 2 (Prime Video)

There’s even an amusing subplot involving “Jinny’s Kitchen’s” executive-heavy internal hierarchy and light posturing over which “intern” holds more seniority, V or Choi Woo-shik. And the crew unofficially adopts a stray dog they name Perro, who becomes their four-legged helper.

While “Jinny’s Kitchen” is, at its heart, an unscripted show about food, travel and cooking (it will definitely make you crave Korean cuisine), it’s really the good-natured relationships and authentic interactions between Lee Seo-jin, Jung Yu-mi, Choi Woo-shik, Park Seo-joon and V that are the main reason audiences are enthralled. Their distinct personalities and different perspectives on work and play only amplify the show’s entertainment value.

For instance, Lee Seo-jin is all about restaurant revenue (he laughingly reacts to V disclosing he drank four bottles of their fresh-squeezed juice out of thirst), while the interns are mischievous rule-breakers (they’re hilariously reprimanded when they use leftover grocery money to buy matching shirts for everyone) and Park Seo-joon, aka the “head chef,” is anointed the promising heir apparent.

“Jinny’s Kitchen” is a refreshing reminder that there is value and joy to be had in a reality show that isn’t loud or over-the-top, and instead celebrates the small, seemingly inconsequential wins that may be boring on paper but are extremely relatable to the everyday person. It certainly helps that the cast meshes well and the food is appetizing. Season 2 should be a feast.

Watch the Season 2 preview for “Jinny’s Kitchen” below.

Season 2 of “Jinny’s Kitchen” premieres Friday, June 28 on Prime Video with episodes dropping weekly. The first season is streaming now.


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