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K-stage Program: Joonhyuk Lee and Hyunseung Choi

Solbam is collaborating with CJ CheilJedang, Korea's largest food and beverage company, to run the K-stage program. Let me share the story of Joonhyuk Lee and Hyunseung Choi, who joined the program and gained two months of kitchen experience at Solbam.

Believing that the growth of our team leads to better customer experiences, Solbam participates in various initiatives to support aspiring and next-generation chefs. This time, CJ CheilJedang is selecting interns for the "Cuisine.K Project," which aims to train promising young chefs alongside experts in Korean cuisine, helping to spread K-food globally. The K-stage program offers young chefs a chance to intern at top fine dining restaurants for two months, enhancing their cooking skills and global capabilities. Joonhyuk Lee and Hyunseung Choi will be interning at Solbam from mid-April to mid-June 2024. Here is their story.


K-stage, Joonhyuk Lee

How did you decide to apply for this program?

LEE: I'm currently on a break from college, where I'm studying cooking. I wanted to gain real-world experience, so I applied for the K-stage program. I’ve always been interested in Solbam and aspired to work in a fine dining restaurant. After passing the document screening and an interview with the chef at Solbam, I was thrilled to be accepted and start working here.

CHOI: I’ve always loved eating delicious food, especially Mexican cuisine, which sparked my interest in cooking. I've been exploring different career paths by working in various restaurants. Solbam caught my attention as a place where I could learn and grow, so I applied for the program to expand my knowledge and skills.

K-stage, Hyunseung Choi

What have you learned from your first month at Solbam?

LEE: While I have some part-time restaurant experience, working at a fine dining restaurant like Solbam has been a whole new level. Everything is done with the highest standards, from organization and hygiene to ingredient handling. I've learned what it means for a restaurant to be truly "honest" in its values, and this experience has broadened my perspective on the industry.

CHOI: I’ve learned a lot, but the most important lesson is my attitude toward cooking. At Solbam, I’ve been reminded of the passion and purpose behind each dish, which can sometimes get lost in routine work. The teamwork here is incredible, and everyone is dedicated to maintaining high standards, especially regarding cleanliness. This experience has taught me to care about even the smallest details.

What has been your most memorable experience so far?

LEE: Every moment has been memorable, but one standout experience was working as part of a team for the first time. Although I learned cooking at school, the hands-on experience of serving customers was entirely new. I also borrowed a carbon knife from Chef Lee Jong-won, and despite my efforts, I scratched it while cleaning. This incident made me realize how much I still have to learn and to be more careful and attentive in my work.

CHOI: The high standards of cleanliness at Solbam are truly impressive. Even though I’ve worked in clean environments before, the meticulous care taken here is unmatched. It’s made me realize the importance of maintaining hygiene even in unseen areas. This focus on cleanliness has deeply impacted my approach to restaurant work.

What are your current duties and what are you learning at Solbam?

LEE: I handle ingredient preparation, organization, and assist with various tasks. I also take care of basic chores like cleaning and washing dishes. The systems I’m learning here will be a solid foundation for my future career. I’m understanding kitchen rules, ingredient handling, and the importance of professionalism and teamwork, even in a high-pressure environment.

CHOI: I measure ingredients and assist other chefs during service. Although I’m still exploring my career path, the energy and passion of my team at Solbam have been inspiring. Chef Eom Tae-joon emphasizes that every dish must be perfect, and he reminds us to stay vigilant, especially on quieter days. This has taught me the importance of maintaining concentration and a strong work ethic every day.

What advice would you give to others considering applying for the K-stage program?

LEE: I would advise staying alert and continuously learning, even if your team members are kind and supportive. The kitchen is full of variables, and accidents can happen if you're not careful. Focusing and learning as much as possible will make this a valuable and rewarding experience.

CHOI: This program is a great opportunity to build a solid foundation, no matter what you choose to do in the future. Even if you don’t plan on working in fine dining, the experience and knowledge you gain from working in a high-standard restaurant will elevate your skills and understanding of the culinary world.


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