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Alumni of the Month

Ms. Taeyeon Kim, Specialist in Korean Culinary Arts & Gastronomic Cultural Event Planner

Diplôme de Cuisine 2018

What made you learn cooking at Le Cordon Bleu? 
When I was in College, I had to go to Paris as an exchange student in management at a Grande école, I learned about Le Cordon Bleu when I took classes on French gastronomic culture and the hospitality industry. From then, I aspired a life as a chef and looked for information to enter Le Cordon Bleu, but I think I like the courage to change my path so suddenly. After graduating from university, I got a job at a large domestic retail company, but on my fourth year at work, I started to think about a life I would be satisfied with. I thought it was now or never to take up the challenge, so although it took some time, I knocked on the doors of Le Cordon Bleu. 

What did you do before enrolling in the cuisine course?
Before taking the cuisine classes at Le Cordon Bleu-Sookmyung Academy, I was in charge of human resources at a large domestic company. Actually, since I was new, I wanted to become a merchandising director specializing in food, so I applied several times for that position within the company, however nothing goes as you want exactly. I always try to be proactive in all aspects but as I was in a big organization there were limits. But what I realized then, is that I wanted to have a job that I liked and that I could enjoy and that would constantly make me grow and develop. I wanted to prioritize my professional satisfaction and take initiatives at work. I decided to shift my career into cuisine that I was always fond of since I was young. 

What did you do after taking the course at Le Cordon Bleu? 
After taking the cuisine course at Le Cordon Bleu, I accumulated various practical experience and theories. Then I decided to choose the path of a Korean cuisine researcher. Since I always had a lot of interest in education, I enrolled for graduate school and wrote a thesis about the education of Korean cuisine. I also participated in various projects of the Korean Food Promotion institute like being part of the wiring committee of the Korean food curriculum for foreigners or dispatching Korean cuisine instructors to overseas educational institutions and embassies. Through these activities I began to build my career as a Korean cuisine researcher in earnest. 

Currently what are you working on? 
I am currently working as a Korean food researcher and culinary even planner in several European countries. I plan and organize gastro-diplomacy events as well as workshops on Korean cuisine including fermented foods for chefs, for F&B industry professionals and of course for the general public. 

How did your experience at Le Cordon Bleu impact your promoting of Korean food abroad? 
I often ask the question “why”, at Le Cordon Bleu I always got a clear answer on “why”. “Why” do we eat that food, the answers given were related to French history, culture and philosophy. They answered “why” ingredients had to be prepared in a certain way, “why’ do we eat them in a certain combination and “why” certain principles had to be respected in the kitchen. 
French cuisine has been systematized over 500 years, and today it is used as the standard of cuisine around the world. I think this system that I have acquired through theories and practices at Le Cordon Bleu has the biggest impact on my current activities. Especially when conducting Korean cuisine education overseas for chefs and professionals the French culinary system that I have learned at the academy serves as a solid foundation. 

Could you share your most memorable success story or experience in promoting Korean cuisine in Europe (various cultural areas)? 
The first year that I started working in Europe, the Korean Food promotion institution sent me as an instructor to the Korean Cultural Center in Hungary. I got an immense opportunity to introduce Korean food by participating in a program hosted by the biggest Hungarian broadcasting company. There were many Korean restaurants in the capital and the Korean cultural center made it such that access to Korean food was quite easy. But I participated in the program hoping to reach people with less access in Korean food, such as those in the Hungarian countryside or from neighboring countries. I participated hoping they would become more interested in Korean food after watching the program. Under the theme “different continent, similar aspects” we decided to introduce foods such as Kimchi and Yukgaejang, so people being introduced to Korean cuisine for the first time could sense a certain familiarity when they watched the program. After it was broadcasted, the Hungarian public and the Korean institutions and media gave us a lot of attention that it has been a very grateful experience. 

In Europe, is there any local institution or association that you are collaborating with to promote the Korean culinary culture? If so, could you share about the achievements of such collaborations? 
In Korea, the Korean food promotion act was enacted in 2019. Government agencies such as the Korean Cultural Centers and Embassies of Each country are working to spread the Korean culinary culture and I am collaborating with these organization in various European countries.  These days, I collaborate frequently with the Korean Cultural Center in Hungary. It has been now 3 years that we have been jointly planning and conducting various public diplomatic events, media appearances, and lectures for diverse audiences.  
Last spring under the supervision of the Korean Cultural Center in Hungary, we organized a workshop on Korean fermented food such as Kimchi and Jang for chefs of Michelin starred restaurants and people from F&B industries and local media. Then based on this, in the second half of last year, as the planner food cultural events, I have planned an event to invite the Buddhist monk Jeong Kwan, it was so successful that it was broadcasted in over on hundred national and foreign media. 
I have approached Korean fermented food and culture, which is today one of the world’s hottest topic, with the foundations I have learned at Le Cordon Bleu. The response from participants have always been great that this year I will be giving a presentation on Korean food at the largest gastronomic festival in Hungary. 

Is there any memorable encounters or experience from your time at the academy that you could share with us? 
Among the many experiences, including those of learning, from the academy, the memory I cherished the most is undoubtedly, the ‘Goût de France’ event. ‘Goût de France’ is an event organized globally by the French government to promote French gastronomic culture. At that time, at Le Cordon Bleu, under the supervision of Georges Ringeisen who was in charge of the basic and superior cuisine classes, we could experience the French cuisine through the mise-en-place, the serving, and to the dining. While dining, Chef told us a lot about French culinary culture, and I also remember this experience the most because we talked a lot about career prospects. Also, by participating in an event celebrating the French gastronomy in every country in the world, I felt the power of culinary culture transcending both time and space and enabling international exchange. It gave me the inspiration that this could be applied on the long term to spread Korean culinary culture. 

Do you have a routine of your own that you keep doing for yourself amidst your busy schedules?
What impressed me at Le Cordon Bleu, is that chefs used different cooking technique from Metropolitan France depending on the characteristics of the Korean ingredients. I learned that in order to be able to freely adapt cooking techniques you need to have a good understanding of mainland and local ingredients. That is why at least one a week I go to the local market to study the local seasonal ingredients in the Netherlands where I currently live, or whenever I am on a business trip to another country. Before going to work I also pass by a market to see the different ingredients depending on the season and region. Of course, I don’t forget to visit the local traditional market each time I am in Korea. 
I always buy and taste ingredients that I encounter for the first time, and even the ingredients that I am familiar with can taste different depending on the climate and soil. So, I taste them and take notes on how the ingredients differ depending on the region. 

What was the biggest challenge you faced during your career transition, and what are the efforts you have made to overcome these challenges? Do you feel that this experience has brought personal growth to you?
The biggest challenge and the part I have concentrated the most on was ‘finding my own path’. I thought ‘finding my own path’ was to gain as much as experience as possible within the large framework of cooking and to identify my own strengths and incorporate them together. That is why I took the cuisine class on weekends, and during the weekdays I gained experience on the field by working in pastry shops, in the kitchen of restaurants, of cooking academies. I also attended various seminars organized by Le Cordon Bleu, and pursued more learning by attending other courses on temple food, royal cuisine, traditional liquor, wine etc. 
On this path of continuous learning, experiencing and reflecting my path became more and more clear and these processes led me to my current work. In addition, by experiencing this career shifting process, I now have the belief that I can tackle whatever comes in the future.  

Is there are any fields you are currently interested in or things you are currently learning? 
These recent years the Korean jang (fermented sauces and pastes) have been receiving the spotlight. As a Korean culinary researcher, I am striving to express the Korean fermentation into a language that the people worldwide can understand. While my family makes jang every year, I still visit renowned monks and teachers for their expertise in jang in order to deepen my knowledge. Recently. I visited Japan to learn about the similarities and differences between the Japanese miso, the fermented soybean pastes well-known to the foreigners and the Korean traditional jang. 

What are your future goals and plan? 
I am striving for various collaborations under the theme of sustainability. For instance, it can be a collaboration between Korean culinary culture and European ingredients or a collaboration between Korean culinary culture and European diet. In the same vein, in May this year I will be giving a lecture at the Budapest gastronomic festival on the theme of Korean fermented foods made with seasonal and local ingredients and pairing Hungarian wine with Korean food. I am also preparing to publish a book in collaboration with a local culinary researcher and wine expert. Furthermore, in the future, I would like to promote Korean culinary culture and the Korean food in many other European countries through exchanges with various people.

To me, Le Cordon Bleu is? 
To me Le Cordon Bleu is the place that instilled in me the culinary DNA. At Le Cordon Bleu I have acquired not only the cooking techniques, but also gained knowledge about the hygiene, ingredients, portioning, the culinary history, the culture the philosophy, the mindset that a Chef should have, and everything related to cooking and gastronomy. That is why even now, although I am not working on French but Korean gastronomy the basics, I acquired at Le Cordon Bleu have become my foundation that helps me work as a Korean food researcher. 

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