Among the KAIST population’s many desires was a demand for the establishment of a bakery on campus. It was also one of Urinuri’s pledges that was left lingering for almost a year. Last month, the students’ hope was finally realized as Artisee Boulangerie was launched at the East and West Cafeterias. Freshly baked goods are now sold at the East Cafeteria Kitchen. The KAIST Herald visited the baker’s kitchen to hear the story about his life and his bread.
Could you briefly introduce yourself to our readers?
Hello, my name is Seungho Lee and I’m the store manager of the KAIST branch of Artisee Boulangerie. I’m 38 years old and have been baking for 20 years. In the past, I worked at the E-mart Chosun Hotel Bakery for 8 years. After that, I set up my own bakery independently, but it couldn’t survive amongst big companies. So I gave up after a year and entered a company again, which is Artisee Boulangerie. While I was working as the chief baker at one of the branches in Yuseong, the company planned to open another branch at KAIST. Since the store was going to run the business on campus and not in a general market area, the administration wanted highly skilled personnel with a long career as store manager. I applied for the position and, fortunately, was selected.
How did you happen to be a baker?
I went to vocational high school and started baking during my first year there. Honestly, I had never dreamt of being a baker before then. I wasn’t a good student during my school days. I was mentally lost and misbehaved a lot. My grades were, of course, near the bottom of the class. At that time, my parents worked as street vendors. One day, I was helping my mother’s work and suddenly realized how much she was suffering. Maybe I grew up then. I knew it was already too late to prepare for college, so I started learning a practical skill, which was baking.
What satisfaction do you get from serving KAIST members?
Recently I am hearing a lot from students that my bread is very tasty, and it actually sells like hotcakes. Yesterday and the day before, bread was sold out early. Seeing how popular my bread is, I appreciate that students here enjoy my bread. It gives me a sense of pride. Also, as an employee of the company which aims to make profits, I am evaluated by my sales. In this respect, I am also pleased that my bread sells well.
Is there any secret to baking delicious bread?
In the drama from last year, King of Baking, Kim Tak Goo, there were scenes in which the master performed some kind of meditation as he began baking. Although that is partially true, I think that strictly following the standard recipe is the secret of making the most delicious bread. As I dig down deeper and deeper, I am convinced more and more that baking is a science. For example, yeast, a critical ingredient in dough fermentation, is actually a living fungus. This fact makes treating yeast tricky work. If you omit a few steps in this scientific recipe because of laziness, you can’t bring out the perfect flavor.
Do you have your own philosophy of baking?
Every chef, regardless of the kind of food he or she makes, cooks with the same mindset, that is, “Never play around with food.” Every day, I wake up at three in the morning and come to the kitchen at four to start baking. Each morning I remind myself of this phrase. Some restaurants use petty tricks such as making many dishes beforehand and putting them aside until they are sold or using less ingredients in the dishes. I would never allow such things to happen in my kitchen.
As you know, the slogan of our bakery is “supplying only daily baked, fresh bread”. It is not only the company’s promotion, but also my other philosophy of baking as well. To begrudge having to throw away any leftover bread wouldn’t be the right attitude.
How are you going to manage the feedback from members of KAIST?
We have forty kinds of bread on sale now, and I know that students and faculties will soon be fed up with some of the products. In preparation, I am planning to substitute unpopular ones with new products. In the process, feedback from customers would be fully reflected. If there is a request for different kinds of bread, I would make a proposal to the company to add it to the menu. After adding several items, I will hold free bread tasting events.