As esports grows, it and the food industry continue to merge. I had the opportunity to chat with Kang "Dodo" Jun-hyeok—currently the general manager for Team Liquid. Dodo has a unique experience in esports and food. He played professionally in the League of Legends Championship Series, playing with Team 8 in 2013. After the team was sold, Dodo took a job with Immortals as team manager. He was put in an odd position: taking on management duties as well as being responsible for feeding the team. He didn't have any professional culinary training—most of his knowledge coming from watching and experimenting with cooking videos.
It was a lot to handle, with Dodo saying "during the time in Immortals for about a year and a half, I would cook for the whole players and then some staff. So for about, like, eight or nine people, you know, every day, like two meals a day. So that was it was an interesting time. You know, it was stressful at the time, too, but I, I enjoyed it." From there, he worked his way up in the industry to now manage one of the biggest brands in the space—an organization continuing to innovate esports nutrition. It was inspiring to learn how despite no training, he still rose to the task.
Was cooking something that like had always been a hobby of yours? Did you grow up cooking? Did people in your household cook as well?
Uh, yeah, obviously my mom. My mother just cooks like awesome food. And you know, I would sometimes cook, I never really actually cooked before I was working as a manager. I mean I cooked here and there like some like easy stuff, but I never really tried cooking like, difficult meals. So I never really had any crazy experience.
You have an interesting perspective in that you've been around team houses and training centers for more than a decade at this point. How different is the infrastructure for team chefs now say back to your days on Team 8, compared to what Team Liquid provides currently?
Yes. So the infrastructure and just like structures in general of the organizations has jumped hugely in the last four or five years. For sure. Back when I was in team houses, there was no chefs. We were just feeding ourselves, you know, when we can. We would obviously go out and get a lot of like fast food and sometimes even when we do cook, it would be like instant noodles, and a lot of these unhealthy meals.
But especially with Team Liquid and or like all the other organizations now they have team chefs, they have meals provided twice a day in a day, who also watch what they eat. I think a lot of organizations realize in order to provide a lot of health benefits coming from meals for the players. And I think a lot of the chefs in the scene are just great. I mean, they're just working with other organizations, especially for us.
We had a chef for about three years—obviously right now when COVID started, we couldn't use the office we didn't have enough space for a chef to come in. But right now we hired catering service chefs to cook for us like individual packaged meals, and they deliver to us in Team Liquid right now. But in all these meals and services that we provide for the players are just incredible compared to what I had to go through in my years as a player. So it's been awesome.
What are Team Liquid's plans, once you guys are able to fully utilize your training center?
We are right now currently looking at maybe start of next year trying to figure out more chefs. Right now in EU actually, in our facility in the EU, we have about three chefs that are contractors that rotate and provide meal services for them at the office over there. We are planning to do the similar thing in here in NA. And then a plus, we are also planning to maybe hire a nutritionist to actually track down on what our players are eating, and actually provide them what the best health benefit they can have for the for the meals. And it's like a long process. But that's our ultimate goal for now.
div style="text-align: center;">And another thing that I thought you'd have an interesting perspective of is in terms of your player management, one of the big assets that you brought is that you can translate things—where in most of the teams you've worked with a lot of Korean players. What was your strategy having to cater to several different regional palettes?
Yeah, so a lot of times, when I did cook, it was actually a little bit more Asian, like Korean cuisine, for sure. But like, I didn't have much difficulty in that part. Because, you know, a lot of my roster weren't like picky eaters. But for Koreans, they all obviously sometimes do prefer, in like, the Asian dishes, or like Western dishes, but a lot of times I didn't have too much problem with that, sometimes it was the other way around.
Like, for example, right now, we have a lot of Western players and plus Eastern, like players and stuff mixed, you know, and then like choosing something that can satisfy everyone is, is impossible. I could say that right now. Like, no one's gonna be not everyone's gonna be happy what they eat. So a lot of times I tried to even sometimes cook like two different meals at times, if I asked the players what they want to eat. Or even in a way, how we ordered food as well, there will be like, two different types of meals.
So, yeah, it's been interesting, but at the same time, the Korean players do like trying new things, like different Western cuisine plus, and then Western players trying like the Asian cuisines that they've tried before and liking it. So it's fun, it's a good mix of culture.
Let's talk about it just more on a personal level for a second. I'm someone that thinks that the esports demographic—that age range of people—they would especially benefit having knowledge of how to cook Do you think it's a skill that has helped you as a player and your personal life?
I think, yeah, I think learning how to cook is actually extremely beneficial for yourself and for me, at least, it was super enjoyable, even though like when it was like my job to cook for 10 people every day. I still enjoyed the cooking aspect of it, because it's about something that you create, you try to like the process of creating, like the meals, and you know, making it delicious. And then just having the players and stuff, enjoying the season, it's just such a small sense of achievement that you feel every time you're successful in cooking.
And then I think you know, that little, you know, sense of achievement, and it's like a small project, every time you cook, it helps, I think it's a good practice, good skill to have also, you know, whenever you're hungry, you don't have to, you know, always more food, you could just cook something out, you could have something in the fridge. And then I know, some of my staff originally started taking cooking with, the whole college situation, and they've been enjoying it as well. So, I think it's definitely a skill where it's not only benefit from getting hungry, but just mentally as well.
Also, looking at food, not only can it be beneficial to a team from a health perspective, but with talking with other team chefs in the past, the big thing that they've talked about is using from a morale perspective. What's Team Liquid's approach to that?
Oh, yeah. Yeah, whenever, the players are sick, or like, when they're even homesick, we try to satisfy and try to help them in what they need. Like sometimes we would for CoreJJ, he'd really want like a Korean meal or like soup in the past. Right, now, he doesn't have a problem, because he has his wife here now cooking for him. But in the past, like, we would cook like Korean meals for CoreJJ, Impact and Keane—when there was a lot of Koreans here.
And, you know when a lot of times here, right now for like Jensen—the breakfast would be like what he had, you know, like growing up. A lot of bread cheese, you know, like some meat. We will try to cater a lot of what the players will want. And then obviously...we would ask them, "Excuse me, do you want some kind of like, soup? Or like, do you want something in particular, these things, and things that you eat?"
Not only, like I said, like, help you like from getting hungry, but like you just did the sense of like, you know, like your meal meals that you had back in the day—it's just really comforting.
If you enjoyed this piece, follow the author at @OddballCreator.Check out our LoL section for more content.
Images courtesy of Dodo's socials and Lolesports.
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