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Garde-manger: Hyunsoo Shin

Meet Hyunsoo Shin, Solbam’s Garde-manger, who lives by the motto 'always challenge yourself to be better.'

How did you become interested in cooking?

My interest in cooking started with my family. My grandmother, aunts, and uncles owned a chain of Korean restaurants in Malaysia and Singapore. Growing up around the restaurant business naturally sparked my interest, and seeing their success made me want to try it myself.

Did you originally major in cooking?

No, I initially studied design, but it didn't suit me, so I dropped out. Afterward, I considered starting a business. At around 24, after my military service, I helped out at my mother's restaurant. For a year, I handled various tasks and interacted with customers, which made me realize that hard work in the restaurant industry could be rewarding. Observing areas for improvement and learning more about the business inspired me to pursue this path seriously.

What kind of career did you have after that?

When I returned to Korea, I wanted to work in a restaurant but didn't have a culinary degree. I joined a large Italian franchise restaurant, which had a well-established system and relatively low entry barriers. I worked there for about two years and learned the basics of running a kitchen, from ingredient handling to teamwork and efficient service. However, most of the cooking involved assembling pre-made elements rather than creating dishes from scratch, which limited my learning. So, I decided to seek experience in a place where I could work with higher-quality cuisine.


Which restaurant did you go to next?

I joined 'Opnng,' a wine bar that’s also listed in the Michelin Guide. Through the introduction of chefs there, I began working at an Italian pasta restaurant called The Doughroom in 2021. This experience allowed me to rethink the basics and the mindset of a chef. In a franchise restaurant, consistent flavor and efficiency are crucial, but it can become routine without understanding the reasons behind certain practices. At The Doughroom, I learned to question things, like whether to use dried or fresh noodles and which sauces pair best with them.

I'm also curious about your experiences after that.

After my time at The Doughroom, I fully committed to opening the wine bar. I worked there for three years in various sections, which helped me redefine my approach to cooking. In the franchise, I noticed many colleagues performing tasks without much thought, but over time, the attention to detail made a significant difference. Interacting with people from different fields was also enriching. The company didn't just run a wine bar but also a dessert and catering business and a pizza brand restaurant, so I had the chance to work with branding, management, and design teams. This broadened my perspective, beyond just the kitchen and hall teams, and was a great opportunity for growth.

And how did you come to Solbam?

I wanted to experience working in a fine dining restaurant to understand the sophistication of their food. My ultimate dream is to have a "coal house" where I can grill meat, so some might wonder why I chose fine dining. For me, Solbam is about learning from the best. Working in a top-tier organization, whether it's a cafe or a hotel, offers invaluable experience. The skills and attention to detail I gain here will be beneficial, even if I eventually run a casual pork belly restaurant. This experience will help me identify what sets me apart from others.

What are you feeling while working at Solbam?

It's all about the pursuit of perfection! There is no compromise, even on the smallest details. When I started, I often had to rework tasks to meet their high standards, which helped me develop a keen eye for quality. The precision and teamwork in the kitchen and service are impressive.

When I first started, I didn't know all the rules, like wearing white under the chef's uniform and black socks. I showed up in a black T-shirt and was almost sent home, but I quickly bought a white one to continue working. Initially embarrassing, this experience made me appreciate Solbam's standards and the importance of maintaining their image and service quality.

What kind of future are you dreaming of?

I dream of running a small, cozy wine bar that opens only in the evenings in my hometown and having a stable income from a briquette shop. My life motto is "Challenge," and I will keep challenging myself to achieve my dreams.


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