List of tvN’s Popular Korean Cooking Reality Shows: ‘4 Wheeled Restaurant’, ‘Youns Kitchen’, and More

Coffee Friends

Coffee Friends is a coffee shop themed variety-reality show by tvN. It was aired from January 4th to March 8th, 2019. The program was filmed on a popular touristic destination, Jeju Island, Korea. Coffee Friends consisted of 10 episodes and aired on Fridays at 19:10 KST, the highest rating was achieved in Episode 7, while the lowest rating was experienced in Episode 10.

The shooting took place at a tangerine farm in Jeju Island. Cast members operated a coffee shop that offers coffee, beverages, and western food. It was inspired by a donation project conducted by actors Yoo Yeon-seok and Kim Ho-jun, who served free coffee for donations. Both of the actors participated in Coffee Friends alongside the original Korean wave actress, Choi Ji-woo, and young actor Yang Se-jong. The entire menu in the coffee shop had no prices, and customers who ordered from the menu could donate money in exchange for food or drink. At the end of the show, they gathered more than 12 million KRW.

Yoo Yeon-seok acted as the shop owner and chef cook, while Son Ho-jun was a shop owner but also responsible for coffee brewing and baking. Yoo Yeon-seok is a friendly chef, and he has a specialty in making delicious breakfast-lunch. Son Ho-jun has a barista certificate, and he served hand-drip coffee to customers. Choi Ji-woo was responsible as hall manager while the youngest member, Yang Se-jong acted as an all-around helper. Choi Ji-woo was the friendliest member of the customers. Initially, Yang Se-jong was responsible for cleaning, washing dishes, collecting tangerines, and serving food.

At the end of Episode 1, cast members gathered and asked for another helper from the program director. Several actors and idols appeared on the program and were given tasks as dishwashers, orange sellers, bread delivery men, and famous Chef-businessman-TV personalities. Baek Jong-won made a surprise appearance as a helper and Chef Assistant on Episode 6 and 7.

At the end of the program, viewers criticized Coffee Friends for accumulating and donating too little donation as compared to the prices of the food. When Baek Jong-won participated as a temporary worker, many customers visited the restaurant. They collected only around 2 million won. A ridiculously low amount of money compared to the prices of food and the number of customers. Since most of the costumers were adults, much bigger donation was expected from Coffee Friends.

According to director Park Hee-yeon, customers were selected from online registration. All participants by lottery decided customers. She said that there weren’t many people interested in donating, and Koreans weren’t used to donating.

Three Meals A Day

Three Meals A Day is a cooking reality show that was directed by Na Young-seok. It aired every Friday from October 17th, 2014, and consisted of 8 parts.

Cast members lived in rural areas or fishing villages and used the surrounding food items to cook three meals a day. They weren’t allowed to shop groceries and forced to grow their vegetables or go fishing at the beach. Usually, cast members consisted of 3 – 4 male celebrities and additional temporary guests. Due to its high rating and nationwide popularity, several versions were made, including the all-female version.

Director Na Young-seok came up with the concept when he looked at Lee Seo-jin’s cooking skills in the variety show Grandpas Over Flowers. Since Lee Seo-jin was so poor at cooking, production staff mocked him by asking him to appear parody of the popular cooking drama King of Baking, Kim Takgu.

Three Meals A Day earned a massive response from viewers and became the most searched variety show the moment it was broadcast. Episode 1 recorded a very respectable rating, 4% when 1% was considered a success.



Broadcast Date

Broadcast Time (KST)

Total Episodes


Three Meals a Day: Jeongseon Village 1

Jeongseon-gun, Gangwon-do

October 17th – December 26th, 2014

21:50 – 23:10


Lee Seo-jin, Ok Taec-yeon

Three Meals a Day: Fishing Village 1

Manjae Island, Heuksan-myun, Sinan-gun, Jeollanam-do

January 23rd – March 20th, 2015

21:45 – 23:10


Cha Seung-won, Yoo Hae-jin, Son Ho-jun

Three Meals a Day: Jeongseon Village 2

Jeongseon-gun, Gangwon-do

May 15th – September 11th, 2015

21:45 – 23:25


Lee Seo-jin, Ok Taec-yeon, Kim Kwang-kyu

Three Meals a Day: Fishing Village 2

Manjae Island, Heuksan-myun, Sinan-gun, Jeollanam-do

October 9th – December 11th, 2015


Cha Seung-won, Yoo Hae-jin, Son Ho-jun

Three Meals a Day: Gochang Village

Gochang-gun, Jeollabuk-do

July 1st – September 16th, 2016


Cha Seung-won, Yoo Hae-jin, Son Ho-jun, Nam Joo-hyuk

Three Meals a Day: Fishing Village 3

Deukryang Island, Goheung-gun, Jeollanam-do

October 14th – December 30th, 2016

21:15 – 23:00


Lee Seo-jin, Eric Mun, Yoon Kyun-sang

Three Meals a Day: Seaside Ranch

August 4th – October 20th, 2017

21:50 – 23:25


Lee Seo-jin, Eric Mun, Yoon Kyun-sang

Three Meals a Day: Mountain Village

Jeongseon-gun, Gangwon-do

August 9th – October 18th, 2019

21:10 – 23:00


Yum Jung-ah, Yoon Se-ah, Park So-dam

In Three Meals a Day: Jeongseon Village 1, Lee Seo-jin teamed up with idol-actor Ok Taec-yeon. They worked together as brothers in the popular Korean drama Wonderful Days. Kim Kwang-kyu participated as a regular member of Three Meals a Day: Jeongseon Village 2. Lee Seo-jin has no cooking skills, but he has a talent with tools, like making cages for goats. He is usually responsible for washing the dishes.

Ok, Taec-yeon’s character is Binggu, slow and always in need of directions from Lee Seo-jin. He doesn’t have any cooking skills, but he is in charge of cooking and making rice. Since cast members weren’t allowed to access the internet or use their mobile phones, he usually called his mother and asked for recipes and suggestions in cooking. His cooking skills improved a lot throughout the entire program. When a beautiful guest appeared, he would become very active and excited. The scenes when actress Park Shin-hye showed up as a guest and interacted with him were among the funniest and most entertaining scenes.

Kim Kwang-kyu made his first appearance as a guest in Three Meals a Day: Jeongseon Village 1. His working rate and friendly character made him a regular cast of Three Meals a Day: Jeongseon Village 2.

Three Meals a Day: Fishing Village consisted of three versions. All of them are the viewers’ favorites compared to other programs. The rating on one of its episodes reached 14.2% and became the highest-rated tvN variety program before being overthrown by Youn’s Kitchen Season 2. Cast members of Three Meals a Day: Fishing Village 1 and Three Meals a Day: Fishing Village 2 were: Cha Seung-won, Yoo Hae-jin, and Son Ho-jun. The scenic view of the fishing village, the characters’ natural interaction, and the fact that they made meals out of nothing were the reasons for its success.

Cha Seung-won acted as the central Cook. He prepared and cooked delicious Korean food since the first episode. It appeared that he loves cooking but not good at it. He can cook well using any available material and ingredients. He was called Chajumma (ajumma means aunt in the Korean language) due to his excellent cooking skills. Yoo Hae-jin performed as the engine of the family. He was also the atmosphere maker with his funny comments. Yoo Hae-jin was responsible for catching a fish, octopus, and collecting clams, crabs, or anything for cooking material. Son Ho-jun was the youngest and responsible for preparing the fireplace, cooking rice, and collecting eggs. He arranged everything in its place while the older brothers did the main work.