We are introducing our garde-manger Kim Jung-eun's story and dreams.
How did you start cooking?
In my household, my dad was the one who cooked frequently. Witnessing his culinary skills and passion sparked my interest in cooking. While I can't recall the exact moment, I believe I had always found cooking fascinating throughout my childhood. As a result, I enrolled in a Cooking School and, soon after graduation, secured a job in my hometown of Gwangju.
What kind of career have you had?
I began my culinary journey at an Italian restaurant that specialized in pasta. Initially, I enjoyed the learning process and adapting to the work environment. However, over time, the repetitive daily routine started to wear me out, and I yearned for further professional development. Consequently, I made the decision to leave my hometown and move to Seoul. As someone who loved exploring and indulging in delicious food, I naturally developed an interest in fine dining establishments. While dining at such places was delightful, I believed that I could gain even more knowledge and skills by working there. Starting at the age of 21 with "Hulotte," I progressed through "Muoki" and "Soigne" before arriving at my current position at "Solbam."
What did you learn in each restaurant?
I didn't stay at any one restaurant for an extended period. My tenure at Hulotte, my first job, lasted approximately three months, during which I learned about the unique charm of fine dining, distinct from the Italian bistro scene. The notable difference was the tremendous emphasis placed on culinary perfection. At Hulotte, the kitchen team personally served the dishes in the dining area, providing me with a valuable lesson.
During my time at MUOKI, my primary focus was on solidifying the fundamentals. The chef's meticulous organization instilled in me a multitude of cooking techniques. Quality was of paramount importance to the chef, and I consider adopting and maintaining such high standards as my most significant learning experience."
What was the most memorable experience? There was a time in my previous job when I had to train and manage a new employee. Although I strive to be a better teacher, I realized that I may not excel in that area. I attempted to teach while carrying out my usual tasks, but everything went awry that day, and I couldn't perform my job properly. I felt remorseful for everyone involved, and it served as a moment of reflection, highlighting the need for further personal development.
How did you land a job at Solbam? Upon the recommendation of a senior within the industry, I decided to give Solbam a try for a few days. Initially, I had no concrete plans of becoming a full-time employee there. However, as I worked and interviewed with the chef, I was deeply moved by the vision the chef and Solbam pursued. The strong sense of teamwork among the staff was also appealing. As I listened to the chef's well-defined plans for the present and upcoming years, I contemplated my role and how to coexist, leading me to feel a sense of trust in the people around me. Moreover, I appreciated the chef's genuine treatment of the employees.
What is your role at Solbam? I serve as the cold section manager, also assisting in other understaffed areas during service hours. While my previous job focused on building fundamental skills, here at Solbam, I am striving to identify and overcome my own limitations.
Which moments are the most challenging and rewarding? During busy and demanding days, my body often feels exhausted. However, the sense of accomplishment after conquering such pressure is immensely rewarding. Cooking is a demanding profession, but it is also incredibly enjoyable. Without challenges, there can be no improvement. I vividly recall the chef from my previous job sharing his wisdom. He mentioned that his success was not solely due to exceptional skills but rather the consistent dedication he exhibited throughout his career. When I contemplated leaving my job midway, he dissuaded me, emphasizing that quitting would waste all the progress I had made. Consequently, I chose to continue working, and in hindsight, it was a wise decision. Now, I understand the importance of gradual skill improvement. I sincerely hope to offer the same advice to juniors facing difficulties.
Chef Eom always emphasizes at Solbam, "Get over it!" To overcome obstacles means not to engage in arguments but rather to surpass personal limitations, right? That, undoubtedly, is the most arduous task. Yet, I believe it is the key to personal growth. Overcoming challenges is paramount.
How do you relieve stress? I find solace in indulging in desserts. It brings me simple joy to explore and savor delicious treats. Additionally, I have two dogs, and I frequently take them out for walks after work or whenever I have free time. Being away from work for an extended period, I understand that going for a walk is a special moment for dogs. Moreover, during holidays, I enjoy meeting up with friends, engaging in leisure activities, or even attending theatrical performances.
What do you envision yourself being like in 10 years? In the future, I aspire to establish a dog playground with expansive lawns and yards. I would love to conduct cooking classes and create dishes suitable for brunch and even traditional cuisine. Although working at a prestigious restaurant like Solbam and setting up a dog playground may seem like distant goals, I firmly believe that no experience is wasted. Therefore, I am eager to continue learning and expanding my knowledge at this present moment.