Mi Kim found her path early on. Growing up baking treats for her friends and helping out in her parents’ restaurant, Mi has always felt most comfortable in the kitchen. Now she helps manage ours as head pastry chef. Today Mi gives us a glimpse into her journey over the last five years and shares her best advice for aspiring pastry chefs.
When did you know you wanted to work with pastry?
In school my best friend and I used to always bake, and my parents owned a restaurant, so I was always in the kitchen. Junior year of high school, I realized that I couldn’t sit in a classroom and I loved food, so I figured why not try baking. So, I went to school at Western Culinary Institute [now Le Cordon Bleu School for Culinary Arts]. My mentor met Leslie [Mackie] and she told her about me and I got hired on as an intern.
How did you work your way up to head pastry chef?
I was the [pastry] lead at McGraw for a while and then [Production Manager] Jane [Cho] started doing wedding cakes at SODO. Jane was working constantly, like 16-hour days, so when I’d have time at McGraw I would call her to see if she needed help. At first, I helped her out with sheet cakes and then started taking on more and more until we decided it was time for me to take over. It was a good way to learn, because it wasn’t overwhelming and I got to build my skills slowly.
I like learning and getting to a certain point where I’m comfortable and then taking it on on my own. That’s something that keeps me going. Getting into the pastry chef position and taking on wedding cakes full on were big accomplishments for me.
What do you love most about being a pastry chef?
I’ve always really enjoyed making specialty cakes, more so even than wedding cakes. Say someone comes in with a picture or an idea of something I’ve never done before, I love jumping in and seeing how it turns out. I just love that creative aspect.
I still love making croissant dough and doing the turns by hand. I like the feel of the dough and the smell of yeast. I really like brioche products too. Forming the Ham & Cheese Brioche is still so satisfying.
What’s your favorite thing to eat at Macrina?
I love upside down cakes for their sugary, caramelized flavor. I really like the Morning Glory Muffin, because it has the [turbinado sugar] on top. It’s so good. The Rick’s [Chocolate Apricot Espresso] Cookie is one of my favorites. I’d never thought of putting apricots in things, but it’s so good.
What advice would you give to an aspiring pastry chef?
Flexibility is something I hold highly in people. It branches into so many things. I think to be successful you need flexibility to handle certain situations. Problem-solving skills and good attitudes are also things I look for when I’m hiring people. Having schooling is one thing, but if you have that drive and attitude and you don’t have schooling, I almost value that more. We’re so big on morale here and everyone having a great attitude and wanting to be here. That’s what leads to success. You have to love something in order to get good at it, no matter where you start.