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Pastry: Woojung Lee

Here's the tale of Woojung Lee from our Pastry team, who aims to showcase the beauty of confectionery, guided by the belief that 'food is an art form.'



How did you get into cooking in the first place?

Well, my mom actually owned a Korean restaurant, so I grew up seeing her cook all the time. From a young age, I found it fascinating and tasty, so I decided to pursue it further by attending a culinary high school. During my time there, I got really into the pastry side of things during bakery classes, and that's when I knew I wanted to focus on that.


You could've stuck with general cooking after being inspired by your mom, what drew you specifically to pastry?

I feel like pastry work demands a lot of precision. Even the tiniest detail can totally change the outcome. It's all about delicacy, which I found really appealing. I enjoy being meticulous and focused, and in pastry, that's essential. Plus, I noticed how much the final product reflects not just the recipe but also the mindset and approach of the baker. That aspect really intrigued me and drew me towards pastry.



Tell us about your work experience so far.

Well, alongside attending culinary school, I had the opportunity to do a work-study program when I was 19. It was a great chance to both learn and work. Thanks to my teacher's recommendation, I landed a job at a big bakery, where I spent three and a half years. It was eye-opening because it was my first real taste of the industry. I learned everything from handling ovens to making dough and bread, and even about customer service. It was also where I got to see the managerial side of things up close. It was quite different from school where you focus on one thing; here, it was a whirlwind of activities. I realized the importance of physical strength too, especially dealing with large batches of dough weighing up to 30kg. It made me appreciate the need to stay physically fit to produce top-quality products.

 

What did you learn from that experience?

Well, my first job was at a Japanese-style bakery where I mainly worked on bread and whipped cream cakes, along with roll cakes. But I felt the urge to delve deeper into French pastry, so I enrolled in courses at Ecole professionnel Le Nôtre de Gastronomie. After a brief stint in Seoul for French pastry classes, I headed to France for a month-long intensive training in glazing, chocolate work, and to soak up the culinary culture. That's when I stumbled upon Solbam.


How did you end up at Solbam?

While I was studying at Ecole Le Nôtre, a colleague of mine recommended me to join the pastry team at a fine dining restaurant. So, before heading off to France for my training, I decided to do a trial day at Solbam. During the trial, the chef challenged me to create something using only ingredients available in the fridge. I whipped up a mini Pavlova, caramelized and flavored, served in a unique style with jasmine Chantilly and fruit compote. It wasn't my best work, but luckily, it was enough to land me a spot on the Solbam team. (Laughs)


What's it like working in a fine dining restaurant pastry team?

Working in a restaurant pastry team brings a different kind of excitement compared to a bakery. I've discovered that incorporating savory ingredients like parsnips can really elevate desserts creatively. There's also a great sense of satisfaction when everything comes together during service. However, it's not without its challenges. Attention to detail is crucial because every component needs to fit together seamlessly like a well-oiled machine. There's no room for even the smallest error.

 



Can you walk us through your typical day?

When I arrive at work, my day kicks off with a flurry of preparations for the tasks ahead. I'm busy baking pound cakes, crafting mugwort biscuits, and delicately frying yugwa. Each day, I approach these tasks with unwavering dedication. Although the Solbam Kitchen team specializes in their respective areas, we often lend a hand to each other, and I sometimes assist with preparing cold dishes in the guardhouse. This cross-functional collaboration not only ensures smooth operations but also provides me with valuable insights into ingredient handling and plating techniques beyond pastry.


Are you a dessert enthusiast? What constitutes a good dessert in your opinion?

Absolutely, I have a penchant for Petit Gateau, and I'm particularly intrigued by its intricacies. Back in Seoul, I'm quite fond of Honeybee for their exquisite desserts featuring seasonal fruits. Their summer plum dessert left a lasting impression on me. Another standout is their Pavlova, which never fails to impress.


For me, a good dessert is all about balance. When you take a bite, every flavor should sing harmoniously on your palate, leaving a refreshing aftertaste. Attention to detail is paramount; it's the small nuances that elevate a dessert from good to exceptional. Additionally, desserts served after a lavish meal, such as pine nut treats, should seamlessly complement the preceding courses, showcasing thoughtfulness and individuality. I'm constantly mindful of these elements as I strive to learn and grow.



What are your aspirations for the future?

I believe that expanding my language skills is key to exploring and embracing the vast world around us. Thus, I'm committed to steadily improving my proficiency in English and French. Looking ahead a decade, my ambition is to become a confectionery entrepreneur. While I once envisioned owning a pastry shop, my perspective has evolved to encompass broader horizons. Whether it involves ingredient distribution or becoming a prominent advocate for confectionery, I aim to make a meaningful impact in the industry.


Working alongside Chef Eom Tae-joon here at Solbam has been truly inspiring. His entrepreneurial spirit, leadership, and attention to detail serve as invaluable lessons for me. Fine dining, with its meticulous standards, offers a wealth of learning opportunities. A quote from Chef Eom Tae-joon about gastronomy being an art form resonates deeply with me. I aspire to create edible art using natural ingredients, weaving my own narrative in the process. With dedication and perseverance, I'm determined to carve out my own path in this field.

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