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Alumni of the Month

Ms. Hyunsil Park, CEO of Crème de Renee

Diplôme de Pâtisserie 2011

What made you learn Pastry Diploma program at Le Cordon Bleu-Sookmyung Academy?
My family lived in Belgium when I was in elementary school, while living there I fell in love with the smell of warm bread coming out of bakeries and seeing chefs and pâtissiers in chocolate and dessert shops, I began to idolize them. After coming back to Korea for middle and high school, I wanted to pursue my dream by looking into pastry or bakery related schools, like Le Cordon Bleu but my parents were strongly against it. After majoring in management and working in a securities firm, I spent my evenings following food stylists and cuisine courses. For something that I wanted to do for so long, I decided that I should give it a try, which led me to quit my job in 2010 and started to learn pastry at Le Cordon Bleu.

What did you do before joining Le Cordon Bleu?
After majoring in management at college, I worked in a securities firm.

What do you do now?
Currently, I am running a design cake studio named, “Crème de Renee”. 

When and how did you start the design cake studio?
My first encounter about design cakes was through the ‘Wilton Class’. To prepare for an exam in the superior pastry program at Le Cordon Bleu in which we had to make fruit-shaped marzipans, with some fellow classmates, we ended up taking ‘Wilton Class’. It started as a class I merely took for exam preparation but as I was introduced to buttercream and sugar cakes, I fell for design cakes. While taking the classes I participated in Wilton contests and won the encouragement prize and the grand prize. Since then, I started to work more seriously about design cakes. After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu, I gained experience for a year in a shop where they ran baking classes and made design cakes, and I also worked in a regular bakery kitchen prior to opening my own design cake studio in 2012.

What is the biggest difference between regular cakes and design cakes?  
The biggest difference is that a design cake is a one-of-a-kind cake prepared for the person receiving it. We have a cake with a baby piece mounted on it. As we also reproduce the 1-year-old baby’s outfit and hairstyle, working on this baby piece only can take 3-4 hours. So, I would say the main difference is the extent to which the cake is customized.

What makes ‘Crème de Renee’ different in the design cake market?
Two points that differentiate Crème de Renee are the taste and the story. Back in 2011 when I first got into design cakes, most cakes consisted of jam sandwiched between two layers or simply used pound cakes. This is because often design cakes need to hold their form throughout an event and thus require to be made strong and sturdy. I wanted to make a design cake that people could find tasty; this led me to use compotes, fresh fruits and ganache when developing new cakes. I work on not only the design but also on the taste of the cake. Furthermore, our cakes each have a name that captures the story behind them. The biggest difference between our cakes is that they go beyond the design that you can see. They all deliver a story through their names. This idea came from how we learned at Le Cordon Bleu. For example, madeleines or financiers that we are so familiar with, have all origins and stories behind their names.

Where do you usually get inspiration for your cake designs? What is the most important skill you need when making your designs into a cake?
I get influenced greatly by movies or artworks. Of course, I continuously get influenced by foreign design cake shops and learn new skills, but I think the essence of design cakes, in a way, is going beyond the limits of existing techniques. I learned many new techniques through oil painting, floral arrangement, and pottery classes and I wish to incorporate them in my cakes. Rather than calling it the most necessary skill, I think what you need most is an understanding of the ingredients to make your cake in numerous ways.

What was the biggest change after you completed the Pastry Diploma at Le Cordon Bleu?
The biggest change was that I was able to learn the basics of French traditional pastry. When I joined Le Cordon Bleu, I didn’t even know how to properly use a scale or manage ingredients. To catch up with my more experienced classmates, after every demonstration class I went to the Bangsan market (Well-known baking goods market in Seoul, Korea) to get ingredients to rehearse the same day and went to practice class the next day. Through these efforts, I was able to acquire the basics and an understanding of ingredients.

Do you have a memorable event from when you were attending Le Cordon Bleu?
I remember most is chef Jean-Pierre. He was such a strict chef that we even had a student who cried on the first day. However, I ran across chef often when I went to Bangsan market, to dessert shops in the department stores, and to dessert fairs to study further. I spoke with him a little with my limited English and when I asked him why he was there, he told me he was out doing research. Seeing such an experienced and established person continuously studying ingredients and tools made me pledge to become a Pâtissier that remains humble and doesn’t stop studying.

What are you most interested in these days?
I am interested in Korean-inspired ingredients that are produced domestically. I started more interest in Korean-inspired ingredients because I wanted to make special design cakes that include Korean traditional ingredients and locally harvested ingredients.

What is your goal and plan from now on?
It is a fact that people, in Korea and abroad, are showing more and more interest in design cakes recently. As new values, like YOLO, and work-life balance become more popular amidst the COVID-19 situation, I think there is a new desire in people to focus more on themselves, compared to before. There are precious moments in every individual’s life. Whether that is a wedding, a wedding proposal, or a child’s first birthday, our goal and plan are to deliver unforgettable memories to accompany such precious moments.

Any advice to students considering starting the pastry diploma?
If you are considering the option, I would recommend just carrying it out. If you don’t start anything, nothing will change. My advice would be to search your own path after joining Le Cordon Bleu.

Do you have any advice for fellow alumni looking to start their own businesses? If so, what is it?
My advice is to start with a secret weapon. This weapon could be a technique or an idea. With this weapon ready, you will be able to build your own brand more easily once starting a business.

To you, Le Cordon Bleu is?
Le Cordon Bleu is a special place that made my dream come true. And this doesn’t just apply to me, to anybody who is interested, I wish to tell them that is a challenge worth taking.

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