“I’m back!” she said, triumphantly. Then promptly fell off the face of the blogging earth. Apparently, real life wreaks its revenge after one’s vacationed. I had a lot of things thrown at me this week, up to and including a burst pipe in our shower. Fortunately it was all dealt with, with relative ease. Unfortunately it left me exhausted beyond the point of writing. However! I did manage to watch the last two episodes of Pasta. And now, I opine.
Oh, my gosh, I adored it! It was exactly what I’d hoped for going in. A sweet, slice-of-life, workplace romance, low on plot, high on character. It helped that I’m fascinated by professional kitchens and chefs and therefore enjoyed the plentiful cooking and food shots. (It may have also helped that I’ve never actually worked in a professional kitchen. If any egregious mistakes were made beyond the usual “shooting a tv show” stuff, I didn’t notice them.)
From this point on… spoilers!
Our main couple, Seo Yoo-kyung and Choi Hyun-wook, were wonderful together — their flirting banter and emotional clashes and smoking hot chemistry were highly entertaining. But I also liked each character on their own. I adored Yoo-kyung’s drive but also her simplicity and lack of any kind of guile. (It’s the kind of part that could have easily tipped over into annoyingly sweet, but Gong Hyo-jin played it perfectly — keeping Yoo-kyung’s innocence earthy rather than cloying.)
Choi Hyun-wook was a different beast in that he starts off as a full on misogynist — firing all the female cooks as soon as possible, because he strongly believes women are dangerous to a kitchen (with their flirting and emotionalism) and that women don’t have the strength of character to be good chefs. (There’s a reason for his thinking. It’s still a sexist reason of course — he tars all women with a brush handed to him by one woman in particular — but at least he didn’t come to his conclusions completely out of the blue.)
Of course, his biases turn around to bite him, he recognizes it, and learns his lesson in the end. Which is what I figured would happen going in. With the sexism so highlighted and underlined and causing him to immediately lock horns with our heroine, you know changes are a’coming. And cleverly, we meet the man before he starts swinging his woman-hating axe. So we do see there’s something beneath his swaggering arrogance. It also helps that actor Lee Sun-gyun is full of charm and intelligence and likability.
That motif of hoisting yourself on your own petard, getting caught in your own trap, digging your own grave (pick your metaphor) carries out throughout the drama. Which I adored because it meant that lessons are learned, or comeuppance is had, without a lot of dramatics or massive plot mechanics.
There weren’t any real villains, either. The closest we come is Seol Joon-suk, the restaurant’s CEO (to begin with anyway). He was like a little resident Wormwood, running around trying to cause as much trouble as possible via lies and innuendoes. And it’s because of him, I thought, that the fissures in the kitchen went on for as long as they did.
But his lies were generally quickly discovered and he was always the one most hurt in the end. (There’s a hilarious scene where Hyun-wook offers a truce and Joon-suk refuses saying, “Hah — you offer that because you’ve won!” And Hyun-wook replies, “Well, as long as you know.” The look of outrage on Joon-suk’s face… hilarious!)
Neither of the second leads descend into villainy, either. The opposite actually. Owner, Kim San, was awesome from the get go — though obviously never, ever going to get the girl. And I was so, so, so thrilled with Oh Sae-young’s story. I loved that her goal wasn’t really winning back Hyun-wook’s love, but regaining her honor as a chef. That was so awesome! And I loved that she and Yoo-kyung had a good relationship all the way through. It wasn’t front and centered (and didn’t need to be) but I loved that it was always good, never dipping into dramatics.
As to the rest of the characters…
I was not all that enamored with the “Domestic” cooks. Mainly because of the way they treated Yoo-kyung. (I pretty much gauged how I liked characters based on their treatment of Yoo-kyung.) I totally understood their rivalry with the “Italian” cooks and I got that a lot of their animosity came from Joon-suk’s manipulations and I did hope they’d win the New Chefs competition… but I was also glad they were heading off to Italy in the end.
I did like the three fired female cooks. Mainly because they just kept on cooking. I admired their perseverance and liked that the drama kept them around to remind us that Hyun-wook did unfairly hurt these women by firing them in the first place. That they were rehired in the end, made me happy.
I thought the “Italian” cooks were adorable. Their intense loyalty to Hyun-wook was pretty cool and they were a lot nicer to and accepting of Yoo-kyung. (Which was honestly a bit odd to me. Part of the reason I was so sour toward the “Domestic” cooks was how, despite having worked with her for three years, they always, always assumed the worse about Yoo-kyung whenever something was there to assume. That really bothered me.)
Eun-soo was adorable, too — especially when his storyline came front and center and Yoo-kyung and Hyun-wook ended up sleeping at his place and she started treating him like they’d adopted him or something — so cute! Plus, his interactions with Joon-suk at the end there — almost like he was retraining Joon-suk into becoming a better human being… loved him.
And that’s really why I loved Pasta. I enjoyed the world it created and the characters it gave us. The end didn’t really feel like a full on ending. I feel like the characters all continued to evolve and grow after the final credits ran. For that reason, I wasn’t bothered by Yoo-kyung not going to Italy. Because it felt like she wasn’t going at this time. Like Hyun-wook said, she still had more to learn (she’d been an actual line cook for less than a year by the last episode) and Italy would be around. Life continues on and Yoo-kyung is out there, happily cooking away. I’m sure of it.