About Kim Hye-jung
Kim Hye-jung (’08, Chinese Language and Literature) manages a dessert café named Sweet Petals that seeks to delight all customers who enter, while also sharing her recipes with those who wish to experience the joy of making desserts on their own. She started as a studio for learning how to create desserts and is now also running a café at the same time. Her unique desserts, which utilize traditional Korean ingredients and style of rice cakes, have attracted attention. Meanwhile, in her ceaseless efforts to deliver enjoyment, some of the difficulties that need to be overcome is also to give thought.
▲ Kim Hye-jung
At first glance of eye-catching desserts, sweet and lovely decorations captivate the eyes and the heart. However, behind the sweetness, there may be a number bitter moments that are encountered when producing these desserts and attempting to deliver happiness to people.
GT: How did you decide to open your own dessert café? What were the reasons that made you decide on this career?
Similar to other people around my age, I was also busy looking for a job and naturally started to prepare for employment. However, I encountered several failures and was rejected in the job race. It was pure chance that I registered for a one-day baking class where I learned rice-cake-style desserts. Surprisingly, I was so immersed in making these desserts that I was not even aware of six hours passing by. Then, after sharing those desserts with others and seeing how pleased they were with my gifts, I realized that my happiness was to see others enjoying what I made for them. And that was the moment when I made up my mind to start my current career. The reality was not always sweet, but I can say that I am much happier than before.
GT: What are some memorable moments in your college life at Korea University (KU)? How has it influenced you currently and what lessons did it teach you?
In my senior year, I formed a drama club with fellow students majoring in Chinese Language and Literature. Actually, it was a critical period to prepare for employment, but despite opposition, we started the club to experience something special. Because the club was formed out of almost nothing, it was a challenge to actually stage a play. However, after the successful first performance, I can never forget the feeling of achieving what I truly wanted to do. If I was afraid of failure and was concerned about employment, I would not have obtained the opportunity to think about how valuable it is to do what is truly personally meaningful.
▲ Fusion Rice Cake
GT: Of the many diverse types of desserts, what are your motivations for making rice cakes and dacquoise? What are the unique aspects of these desserts?
I started with traditional rice cakes that are designed in the form of normal cakes with flower-shaped paste made from beans. In addition to being very good-looking, I liked the idea that it was made out of Korean ingredients and that it was also healthy. At that time, there were a lot of bakeries and cake shops in Korea, but rice-cake shops were rare. I wanted to show that diverse shapes are also possible with rice cakes and that they could be as delicate and appetizing as other common deserts. In the same context, I wanted to let more people know about dacquoises. While many know about macarons, dacquoise’s less sweet yet unique texture is often less familiar to the public. With rice cakes and dacquoises, I wanted to introduce various kinds of desserts.
GT: What are the sweet moments of making and selling desserts? On the other hand, what are the bitter moments of running a café of your own?
The proudest moments are when customers revisit and say that the desserts were so delicious that they couldn’t stop thinking about them. I am always grateful for customers who are fond of my desserts and come back to taste them again. Ironically, the bitter moments or difficulties also occur with customers. Because I do not know when and what kind of customers will come to the store, I have to be alert at all times waiting for them. Also, I cannot tell which types of dessert people will want and which will satisfy each customer, so I always have to carefully consider what sort of dessert I should make and regularly think about what would delight as many customers as possible.
GT: As the owner of Sweet Petals, what are your future goals? In addition, what are your upcoming personal plans and hopes for the future?
As the owner of Sweet Petals, I hope I can be identified by my own distinctive desserts. I want to break the stereotype that desserts are just sweet without other distinct flavors and that rice cakes are only substitutes for meals. I want to spread Korean traditional rice cakes by developing fusion rice cakes that take advantage of a diverse range of ingredients, such as black sesame, soybean, and mugwort. I believe Korean desserts can captivate people of all ages and nationalities. Recently, the size of the dessert market in China has expanded, so in relation to my major in Chinese Literature and Language, I would like to expand my career in China by opening classes of making desserts under my name. Likewise, I hope one day I can be identified by my own distinctive desserts, in addition to many people taking pleasure in my classes.
GT: What advice would you like to give to KU students?
I assume that KU students have experienced similar situations since their school days, particularly becoming familiar with the words smart, proper and diligent. Because of this past, it may be a challenge for them to deviate from the ideal social path. However, walking on a different path compared to others does not mean it is wrong. Although grades and accomplishments are also important in life, I suggest students to get involved in various activities that may be done in a limited time and discover what they truly enjoy. After that, they should pursue their own dreams, not follow other people’s words. No matter how successful you have become in the eyes of others, it is insignificant compared to the happiness gained by doing what one truly desires. I want students to realize that procuring true happiness is extremely valuable and worth obtaining.