Our Pastry Chef Sehee Hwang highlights the allure of her role as creating joyful and delightful moments for people. Here, she shares the mastermind behind Solbam's concluding course.
How did you find your way into this profession?
My initial exposure to baking was during middle school when I had to complete a science class project involving a research report. This led me to discover yeast and the joy of crafting bread. Intrigued, I acquired an oven, a blender, sought out recipes, and gradually immersed myself in the process. I began baking cakes for friends' birthdays and even prepared numerous waffles for my class on sports day. The positive feedback encouraged me. My homeroom teacher recognized my talent and recommended to my parents that I consider pursuing this passion seriously. As a result, I aimed to enter a prestigious culinary school in Korea, but my plans changed. Through a series of events, I ended up studying in Australia for three years to improve my English. Subsequently, I pursued my culinary dreams by enrolling in the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in the United States.
What trajectory has your career taken since then?
Securing a one-year U.S. working visa, I aspired to gain experience in top-tier restaurants while finding a mentor to enhance my dessert expertise. Thus, I joined Cafe Boulud, a one-star establishment at the time, where I acquired valuable skills amid the hustle and bustle of a busy kitchen. Despite the learning opportunity, I faced challenges adjusting to life without many Korean acquaintances. Upon my return to Korea, I initially navigated through uncertainties. Contemplating my desires, I eventually felt drawn to Sydney, Australia, where I had previously spent my high school years. After stints in diverse eateries, including the fine dining restaurant Quay, I eventually connected with Chef Eom and joined L'impression for a year.
Subsequently, you became part of Solbam upon its opening.
I didn't leave my previous role at L'impression to join Solbam. Struggling with health issues such as chronic gastritis and overall sensitivity, I felt the need for a more relaxed lifestyle. During this reflective period, I received a call from Chef Eom. He held a spot for me at Solbam! Half-jokingly, given my aversion to searching for another job... (laughs) Having confidence in my abilities, I decided to embrace the opportunity and here I am.
What is the allure of your current profession?
I have a tendency to swiftly switch interests. Over the years, I've dabbled in various pursuits, from playing musical instruments like the guitar, drums, flute, piano, and violin, to briefly experimenting with sewing as a potential fashion designer. My attention often wavers, but not when it comes to baking bread and crafting desserts. Unlike my previous endeavors, these tasks don't wear me down; I find consistent joy in them. The reason, I believe, is that I derive immense satisfaction from presenting what I create to others rather than merely finding personal enjoyment in the process. Witnessing another person's happiness is an incredibly rewarding experience.
How do you find inspiration when creating desserts?
My creative inspiration draws heavily from my past experiences in the restaurants I've worked at. Cafe Boulud, for instance, is renowned for its refined fusion of classic flavors, which has profoundly shaped my style that remains timeless. Nowadays, I often find myself envisioning new combinations when I encounter various ingredients. When these ideas naturally crystallize in my mind, they exude a remarkable allure. Lately, I've been intrigued by the idea of incorporating 'cooking ingredients' like vegetables into desserts. In a previous season, I experimented with parsnips as a dessert component.
Could you highlight a dessert from Solbam's offerings that holds special significance for you?
Among the array of desserts at Solbam, those centered around the theme of 'milk' stand out to me. The feedback I've received from those who've savored them has been especially heartwarming. This particular dessert boasts a diverse blend of textures, temperatures, and techniques. Comprising elements like milk ice cream, tonka bean cream, and a four-hour condensed milk infusion, coupled with indulgent caramelized dulce cream and a dual-texture milk rice cake, it encapsulates the essence of pure, pristine milk, akin to freshly fallen snow. Its clean, soothing flavor bestows a sense of happiness.
What role do desserts play within the dining experience?
Perhaps it's my perspective from the pastry section, but I believe desserts hold the utmost significance. (laughs) Consider this: after indulging in a lengthy course, what lingers most profoundly in memory are the beginning and the end, right? The concluding impression is particularly vital, as it can significantly influence one's overall recollection. Thus, I'm dedicated to ensuring that guests conclude their dining experience on a high note.
Could you share your aspirations for the future?
Like many others, my aspiration is to establish my own establishment. Given the thriving gourmet scene in Korea, I envision a restaurant solely dedicated to desserts. The prospect of presenting a dessert that evokes sheer delight in a picturesque setting is incredibly appealing to me.
Currently, my primary focus revolves around contributing to the realization of Solbam's collective vision. As the Solbam team expands to include wine bars and bakeries, I anticipate playing a pivotal role. Rather than embarking on this journey alone, I eagerly anticipate the exciting path ahead of us as a united team.