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Sommelier: Hyunbin Park

Hyunbin Park, our Junior Sommelier at Solbam, warmly welcomes guests with genuine sincerity, crafting delightful memories during their visit.

FOH represents Front of House, which encompasses the restaurant's customer-facing area. In simpler terms, it refers to the space where guests engage. This encompasses all aspects of interaction, ranging from the service staff's welcoming gestures, food and beverage service, to engaging in conversations with patrons. A valuable team member, Park Hyun-bin, has been with us since our inception, contributing to our collective growth. Today, we delve into the narrative of Park Hyun-bin, a seasoned sommelier.

Could you elaborate on your career journey leading up to your role at Solbam?

Initially, I embarked on my professional journey within the hospitality industry, primarily focusing on catering services at esteemed hotels like Yeouido Conrad Hotel and Dongdaemun Novotel. Nonetheless, I found myself yearning for more direct customer engagement opportunities. I longed to provide personalized, intimate services that could facilitate meaningful connections. This desire steered my interest towards fine dining.

At the outset, "Solbam" wasn't a familiar name to me, which is unsurprising given that the restaurant had not yet opened its doors. Despite this, I ended up securing an interview due to a serendipitous connection. During the interview, the chef's charisma truly captivated me. What was initially intended to be a 20-minute conversation stretched into a two-hour discussion. This wasn't an ordinary interview experience. The prospect of collaborating with someone who possessed not only determination, but also a clear vision and defined objectives, felt like a dream. The chef's passionate discourse about Solbam's trajectory, his team's core values, and the meticulous work standards left an indelible impression. I felt genuinely persuaded. Learning that the chef himself had prior hotel experience, I felt an immediate resonance with his accounts of overcoming challenges and mapping out pragmatic paths to growth. Driven by my own aspirations for personal and professional development, I made the decision to join the Solbam team.

Do you generally enjoy interacting with people?

Absolutely. I've always had a penchant for engaging in conversations and connecting with others, which is why I gravitated towards a career in the service industry. Initially, I had aspirations of becoming a flight attendant in the airline industry. However, a job opportunity at a hotel came my way, and through a series of different chances, I found myself here. It's been quite a journey since I embarked on my service-oriented career at the age of 19. I've taken on part-time roles at private and family-owned restaurants, and I've also been involved in managing large-scale events such as weddings and corporate functions at hotels. Now, as part of the Solbam team, I'm gaining a new perspective by delving into the intricacies of our establishment. Although my experience might not be as extensive as in other places, I believe this is the time for me to truly nurture my skills, especially since I'm dedicated to providing a warm and welcoming service here at Solbam.

What defines the service approach at Solbam?

Be it couples, solo diners, or business meetings, we welcome a diverse range of customers to our restaurant. Our commitment lies in ensuring that every guest enjoys a comfortable and enjoyable experience, receiving our attentive and genuinely kind hospitality throughout their visit. We engage with our solo diners to ensure they have a pleasant time. Experiencing the positive impact of my efforts during work fills me with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

What is your current focus?

At the moment, I'm dedicating a significant amount of time to studying wine. I'm actively preparing for the WSET Level 3 certification, and subsequently, I plan to delve even deeper into wine expertise and perhaps even participate in competitions. My interest in beverages sparked during my time in the hotel industry. Alongside this, I've also acquired skills as an assistant technician and have developed a fondness for crafting cocktails, leading me to engage in bartending competitions. Coffee is also a realm I can't overlook. Initially, I began self-studying about wine through a book titled "Wine Aesthetics," but since joining Solbam, I've been able to enhance my knowledge more effectively under the guidance of a seasoned sommelier. I'm eager to learn more about the right direction for my studies, effective time investment, and fundamental principles.

Chef Eom shares a similar interest in wine; he's also preparing for his Level 3 certification like me. This has opened up numerous opportunities for us to explore wines and study together. We often engage in blind tastings using wine labels I've covered up, and Chef Eom Tae-joon even gifted me an aroma kit, which we employ during our tastings. I've found that tasting wines with the sommelier and my colleagues, and receiving explanations as we savor them, greatly enhances my understanding. Leveraging my senior colleagues' expertise has significantly contributed to honing my sensory skills. In essence, my current focus revolves around a combination of dedicated work and ongoing study. Excelling in these two domains is undoubtedly challenging, but I'm wholeheartedly committed to achieving proficiency in both.

The most unforgettable moment from Solbam's opening until now would be...

Since our opening day, there have been numerous transformations along the way. Yet, what stands out the most to me is the camaraderie among my colleagues. The genuine dedication each person displays towards their work has fostered a remarkable environment. While adapting to my role and the relative lack of experience presented challenges, it wasn't solely due to the occasional encounter with discourteous patrons who didn't reciprocate my earnest efforts with kindness or respect.

Nevertheless, what truly uplifts me is when customers remember me, inquire about my name, or return for subsequent visits. It's heartwarming to realize that their experience here goes beyond mere dining; they're seeking a distinctive encounter, and I'm always elated to be part of that.

During the initial days of our establishment, the chef generously extended an invitation for us to bring our families. I took this opportunity to invite my mother and brother. It marked a momentous occasion in my life as I was essentially working while they dined. Witnessing their pride and amazement in me was truly gratifying. Although looking back, I can't help but acknowledge that I was a bit uncertain in my role back then. If I were to do the same now, I'm confident I'd be more at ease... (chuckles)

How do you manage stress?

When stress starts to affect me, it often manifests through my facial expressions. Hence, I'm actively engaged in honing my emotional control. Physical activity, such as exercise and movement, serves as a valuable outlet for me. Unlike in the past, where I might have been consumed by overexertion, I now prioritize activities that truly resonate with me. Engaging in wine tastings or simply sitting by the tranquil Jungnangcheon Stream or the Han River, enveloped in the soothing sound of water, provides me with a profound sense of solace.

I'm eager to know about your daily routines and your aspirations for the future.

My typical day revolves around establishing a well-structured routine. Amidst my studies and work commitments, I make sure to incorporate exercise, as it's an essential component. Since I typically finish work around 11 o'clock, effectively managing my time becomes crucial in order to accomplish everything I've planned for the day. From engaging in personal training sessions to dedicating time to studying, this is how I shape my daily life.

At present, I find myself deeply engaged in a continuous learning process under the guidance of the sommelier. My ultimate aim is to progress to the role of Head Sommelier. While I don't have a fixed timeline for achieving this particular goal, my focus is on honing my expertise and broadening my skill set, all while striving to become a better version of myself. I believe that excelling in maintaining a well-structured daily routine is foundational to personal growth. Solbam, undoubtedly, is a Dream Team. Comprising of exceptional individuals, I am truly fortunate to learn from my team members' knowledge and experiences. I hope to nurture these relationships and be remembered for the positive times we've shared, even if I were to move on in the future.

In my view, hospitality inherently revolves around the ability to manage 'relationships' that extend beyond one's occupation. Navigating interactions with bosses, colleagues, and customers requires finesse and a natural approach. It's during these human-to-human exchanges that meaningful values are created. I'm keen on acquiring more experiences and further enhancing my adeptness in this realm.


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