Guest Chef Edward Lee, center, flanked by White House Executive Pastry Chef Susie Morrison, left, and White House Executive Chef Cris Comerford, right, talks about Wednesday's state dinner menu.
CNN  — 

Ties between the US and South Korea will be front and center in the décor and on the menu for Wednesday’s elaborate state dinner at the White House, which will be held under towering cherry blossom branches in the East Room following weeks of careful diplomatic preparations.

“From my husband, I learned that all politics is personal,” first lady Dr. Jill Biden told reporters at a preview of the state dinner, traditionally one of the most glamorous events hosted at a White House. “It’s about finding the common threads of humanity that connect us – that transcend distance and difference – and building on those shared values.”

The White House will welcome President Yoon Suk Yeol and Mrs. Kim Keon Hee, the first lady said, by “honoring the 70 years of our alliance with symbols and moments of beauty that reflect both our countries.”

The visit will kick off Tuesday as the Bidens welcome President Yoon and his wife for an evening visit to the Korean War Memorial. The guests will be formally received with an official arrival ceremony Wednesday on the South Lawn ahead of a bilateral meeting with the presidents, followed by a joint press conference. And in the evening, it’s time for the White House’s full pomp and circumstance as the leaders, their spouses, and key dignitaries attend the black-tie state dinner, just the second of the Biden administration.

There is much at stake at this critical moment in history for the US-Korea alliance, and every detail is taken seriously and meticulously prepared. The important visual diplomacy of setting a scene to welcome Yoon and his team was well underway earlier this week as key members of the team responsible for the dinner event showcased the state dinner’s design and culinary elements to reporters.

“We put great care, time and thought into every decor element and tablescape that guests will experience,” White House social secretary Carlos Elizondo said, underscoring the significance of each choice, from florals to candles to fine china.

To that end, guests will dine on American plates with distinctly Korean flavors, brought to life by Korean-American celebrity chef and James Beard award winner Edward Lee, who worked alongside White House executive chef Cris Comerford and executive pastry chef Susie Morrison.

“As a kid, Thanksgiving dinners were my family’s favorite meal. And it was very traditional – with turkey and sides and stuffing. But being Korean, we always had to put soy sauce and kimchi on everything. And I’ve kept that spirit for my whole culinary career,” Lee said, adding that he will honor “the long standing collaboration and friendship between America and South Korea” with Wednesday’s menu.

The first course of Maryland crab cake is displayed at a media preview of the state dinner during Wednesday's visit by South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and his wife Kim Keon Hee in the State Dining Room at the White House on April 24, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Guests will dine on a first course of Maryland crab cakes with cabbage, kohlrabi, fennel, and cucumber slaw, and a gochujang vinaigrette, paired with a chilled yellow squash soup and cured strawberries. The main course features braised beef short ribs, butterbean grits, sorghum-glazed carrots, and pine nuts. And the dessert course is a deconstructed banana split with lemon bar ice cream, fresh berries, mint gingersnap cookie crumble, and a doenjang caramel. These courses will be served with wines from California and Washington state.

“We came up with a number of dishes. We did a tasting with Dr. Jill Biden and her staff. And we tasted through – oh I don’t know, 10, 12, 13 different courses of food. It was really just a collaboration of talking through what fit for the dinner – what fit just presentation-wise, colors, everything. So we narrowed it down, then we did another round of testing, and this is the result,” Lee said.

As he previewed the plates, served on George W. Bush state service china, Lee said that teaming up with the White House culinary team for an event of this scale was a “lot of pressure” – and that the first person he called when he found out he would be the guest chef was his mom, a Korean immigrant.

“She just said, ‘Don’t mess it up,’” Lee, who has restaurants in Washington, DC, and Louisville, Kentucky, joked.

And the tables will be set with peonies, hibiscus, azaleas, and orchids – florals that will “showcase the harmony of our cultures and our people entwined,” Biden said.

Massive cherry blossom branches will tower over the dining tables, “Recreating the magic of walking along the Tidal Basin or in the streets of Jeju,” Elizondo said.

Peonies, Orchids, Cherry Blossoms, and Azaleas (a native Korean flower) are incorporated in the design and décor at the place settings media preview of the official State Visit with the Republic of Korea, in advance of Wednesday evening's State Dinner at the White House April 24, 2023 in Washington DC.

Other Korean-American design elements will be featured, including a Korean ink brush silk screen painting that will greet guests upon arrival, which will showcase national Korean symbols of a tiger, a magpie, and hibiscus, and American symbols of bison, the bald eagle, and roses. When both presidents speak during the dinner, Elizondo added, they “will be framed by the vibrant colors and designs you may expect to see at an ancient Korean temple” alongside the White House’s “historic architecture.”

In addition to the customary speeches, guests will be entertained by three Broadway stars, “bringing a quintessential American art form to the world stage,” a White House official said. Those stars include Norm Lewis, who appeared in “Phantom of the Opera” and other productions, Jessica Vosk, who played Elphaba in “Wicked,” and Tony award winner Lea Salonga, who was also the singing voice for Disney’s princesses Jasmine and Mulan.

The event was planned by design firm Fête, a Korean-founded business, in conjunction with the White House social team, helmed by Elizondo, and the State Department’s Office of the Chief of Protocol.

CNN’s Arlette Saenz contributed to this report.