Hyundai Card Cooking Library, which opened in 2017, is the fourth installment in the Hyundai Card library series.
Using All Five Senses
The library invokes the use of visitors’ five senses: taste, sight, touch, smell, and hearing. Upon entering the building, the aroma of freshly-baked bread sets up the atmosphere and whetting the appetite. At the Deli, visitors can order gourmet sandwiches, pastas, salads, and beverages. Hard-to-find ingredients like rare cheese selection, cured meats, and foreign spices are also available for purchase at the shop located on the first floor.
Two terrace gardens on the third and fourth floors grow fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs which are used in Cooking Library’s kitchens and cooking classes. The rustic scene of growing rosemary and arugula, blueberries, hot peppers and various fresh ingredients provides a surreal visual contrast with the surrounding luxury of the Cheongdam-dong neighborhood.
On the fourth floor, there is a private dining space called Greenhouse that seats six to 10 guests. Greenhouse is available for reservation. Also, the whole dining space can be rented for a night upon request. It has its own dedicated kitchen where chefs prepare meals using ingredients brought straight from small local farms in Namyangju on the outskirts of Seoul.
The produce supply is a special arrangement between Hyundai Card and small local farmers as part of the company’s effort to support local organic produce. “We have the right to know where our foods come from and how they are made,” said Yoo Eun-young, chef at the Greenhouse. “We try to put some sense of locality and honesty on our tables.”
A Treasure Trove of Cookbooks
On the second and third floors, Cooking Library offers a collection of books about culinary culture and history. Books are organized by each cuisine’s geographic origin, ingredients, and techniques. Notably, the Library contains a complete collection of every prizewinning book from the James Beard Foundation Book Awards and IACP Cookbook Awards, which are the two most respected publishing accolades in the food world. The Library also offers the latest issues of nearly 80 periodicals as well as the complete collections of magazines “The Art of Eating,” “Art Culinaire,” and “Cook’s Illustrated.”
The library organizes book exhibitions curated around different theme every quarter, introducing different kinds of food and culinary techniques to visitors.
On the mezzanine floor, the library exhibits a special section dedicated to home cooking, offering recipes for everyone — even for pets. Free-to-use notepads and pencils are placed every corner of the library to help visitors bring their inspiration home.
Playing with Food
Within the library’s second-floor reading room is a glass structure called “Ingredients House.” Inside, visitors can experience and experiment with nearly 190 different spices, herbs, salts, and oils from around the world. Equipment to grind and blend the ingredients together lets visitor get hands-on practice with the world of spices and aromas, offering a unique educational experience for the eyes and palette.
On the third and fourth floors, cooking stations allow visitors to try out the recipes from the library’s books. Self-Cooking programs and directed cooking classes let visitors recreate gourmet recipes using detailed instructions and pre-prepped ingredient kits. Visitors can participate by signing up online in advance.
A Family Kitchen-like Space
Cooking Library’s interior and external architecture was designed to demonstrate the idea that in the culinary world, everything is linked together. All floors of the library are therefore linked rather than being separated into first, second, and third floors. The stairs are carefully designed to create floors in between, engendering a fluid movement of space between each level.
“We decided to locate the kitchen on the top floor, and the reading and deli areas on the lower floors in order to emulate the ambience of “Agungee,” a Korean traditional stove,” said Choi Wook, architect of the Cooking Library building. “Agungee not only serves as a kitchen station but also as a boiler to heat the entire house. In order to heat the building by circulating heated water from the Agungee, people would locate the stove a bit above the floor level.”
“Thanks to Agungee the entire house could stay warm. Imagine the atmosphere, where children are excited by the sound of vegetables being sliced on a chopping board, the boiling pots and sizzling pans, the aromas of delicious meal being cooked. I wanted to recreate that ‘family kitchen’ atmosphere where the light, sound, and fragrance coalesce,”
“The facilities of the building itself contain a ‘full course’ on cooking. You first smell and see, then touch, listen and finally create cuisine of your own. You can enjoy food, understand it, recreate it and become curious about your next dish,” said a Hyundai Card Cooking Library manager.