After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America and embarking on his culinary journey at a hotel's Cantonese restaurant, Chef Taejun Eom worked his way up as a line cook and sous chef before achieving a remarkable feat—a Michelin two-star rating shortly after opening a contemporary fine-dining restaurant. Through these diverse experiences, Chef Eom has developed his unique style and approach to cooking.
For his latest endeavor, Solbam, Chef Eom took on the role of owner-chef, aiming to create a space that radiates with vibrant energy while also evoking the tranquil memories of the serene forest near Solbamgyo Bridge in Andong. This location held special significance for him, as it was a place where he cherished moments of quiet contemplation during his childhood.
I'm curious about the culinary philosophy at Solbam. Could you share your insights?
I consider myself as a work in progress. My culinary output evolves through various experiences, constantly changing and evolving. I believe that the culinary traditions of Japan, China, Korea, France, and Italy, when brought to their highest levels, converge and meet. So, fundamentally, I "inspect" the ingredients. Thinking deeply and gaining insight are integral to my approach. Understanding the essence of each ingredient becomes paramount, enabling me to express my culinary vision, irrespective of the cooking method or technique employed.
Where did the inspiration for Solbam's ambiance come from?
Just like the name of the restaurant, the inspiration stems from the pine forest in Andong. In Andong, there are well-preserved pine forests surrounding my family's home. The evergreen nature of the pines, even during winter, symbolizes resilience and has been cherished by many. As a young boy, I lived in a remote area where buses ran only four times a day. Often, I preferred walking for over an hour through the quiet pine forest and pine chestnuts, finding solace in the awe-inspiring power of nature. This experience allowed my thoughts to settle, and I could immerse myself in a sense of concentration. It was a form of self-reflection and contemplation.
I wanted to create a space at Solbam where I could enjoy moments of relaxation and contemplation, even amidst the bustling city. This concept soon became the central motif for the restaurant. Nature is both intimidating and awe-inspiring, demanding respect and appreciation. The more you explore and study it, the deeper its teachings become. My dream was to express the formidable yet comforting power of nature through the ambiance of Solbam.
I wonder how you implemented the art museum motif in Solbam's space.
I have a genuine fondness for galleries, and I've contemplated this concept for quite some time. The atmosphere of an art museum has always resonated with me. The diverse artworks on display create a dynamic ambiance that constantly evolves, yet what truly captivates me is the space where people quietly immerse themselves, moving through the exhibits and connecting with their emotions. I find the overall feeling in art museums to be truly inspiring. Even if I don't adore every single piece, there's a unique energy in the air, the atmosphere, and the sensibility of the visitors that captivates me.
How did you bring the essence of the art museum into the design of Solbam's space?
I believe an art museum is serene yet not silent; it's full of movement and emotions, with the energy of focused individuals. Taking inspiration from this, we aimed to create a comfortable and white-toned space that allows guests to concentrate on their dining experience, much like an art museum provides a clean and stable environment to appreciate artwork.
While the art is not the main focus at Solbam, the food takes center stage. This is where the overall image of Solbam began to take shape. Our aim was to express a timeless and simple refinement, free from fleeting trends, allowing both the space and the ever-changing menu to naturally complement one another. Though Solbam is situated near the bustling city's noisy boulevard, stepping inside evokes a sense of calm and focused energy, as if all background distractions are forgotten. When our guests can fully concentrate on their food and feel the energy around them, I believe our intentions are effectively conveyed.
What do you envision for the future of Solbam?
Solbam is steadily moving towards the vision that initially inspired me, and it's progressing faster than I had anticipated. However, the end result is not predetermined; it's more akin to a dynamic and evolving organism called Solbam. It's similar to the feeling of raising a child—you can educate and nurture them, but you can't predict exactly who they will become or what they will achieve, right? Similarly, Solbam will evolve and may change directions along the way, and I can't foresee its final appearance. I will continue to dedicate myself to cooking, but I firmly believe that one day, after much time has passed, it will be a space where the colors of other talented chefs leading Solbam will blend in, revealing their unique experiences, knowledge, and creativity. My hope is that we will venture into uncharted territories and continue to grow beyond what I could have imagined.