Grain-fed American steaks – and discussion about them on the South Korean Internet – were sizzling recently as 18 leading restaurants in Korea gathered under the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) banner for an American Steak Week celebration of the finest in U.S. steaks.
The unique promotion, developed with support from the USDA Market Access Program (MAP) and the Beef Checkoff Program, crossed the lines of Seoul’s restaurant brands and featired U.S. beef steaks in a promotion that has won rave reviews – and loyal new fans for American steak – from some of the city’s top chefs.
“It was the right decision to join such a great event,” said Sunggu Jung, head chef of GOO STK restaurant. “We did well with lunch sales that have been a weak point for a long time. GOO STK is well-known for dry-aged beef steak and conventional loin cuts, but it was great to see that other cuts like the flat iron can also sell well.”
The “steak culture” is a growing phenomenon in South Korea, according to Jihae Yang, USMEF-Korea director, and the American Steak Week promotion involved the spectrum of restaurants ranging from Italian steakhouses and dry-aged beef steakhouses to mid-priced trendy restaurants and owner-chef steakhouses.
Each participating restaurant provided a featured giveaway item to help promote American Steak Week, ranging from a grilled asparagus side dish and red velvet cake to wine and a chef’s apron. USMEF provided point-of-sale materials and leaflets along with salt and pepper shakers for each restaurant.
The event, which was heavily promoted through USMEF’s Facebook site to its 78,000 followers, was featured in posts by 16 influential bloggers who are prominent among Korean restaurant patrons. It also was the focus of an advertorial in the popular Chosun Ilbo newspaper, which has more than 2.2 million readers. It provided detailed information on U.S. steak cuts, wet- and dry-aging as well as cooking techniques.
The high-end lifestyle magazine “Luxury” also ran a six-page advertorial featuring each of the restaurants that participated in the promotion with comments from the chefs on while they prefer U.S. beef.
“We are pleased that we could promote our steak menus through American Steak Week,” said Wonjin Choi, head chef of the Turtle Grill & Bar. “One of the new menus that we launched for American Steak Week is still selling well and will stay on our menu for a very long time. We would love to do the promotion again.”
Following are several links from Korean bloggers’ reports on American Steak Week:
In 2013, South Korea was the No. 6 market for U.S. beef exports: 105,406 metric tons (232 million pounds) valued at $609 million.