By Christopher A. Pape
Every so often life throws you a line of opportunity. Recently, this happened to me when I met the most interesting mother-son team from South Korea. Seongmi Kim and her son David Choi are passionate about chocolate. In fact, they are the first and only hand-made chocolatier company operating in Korea. Their business model is quite unique -from a school that teaches how to make tasty desserts and sculptural pieces from chocolate to manufacturing and the sale of the chocolate, they have dived head first into this exciting field. While not currently sold in the States (they are working on that), their chocolate is some of the best I’ve ever had. And from the first bite, I knew I had to feature this dynamic duo in the magazine.
What follows is the interview, please enjoy and be inspired!
New York Resident (NYR): Tell me how you came up with the name of the company?
Ms. Kim and Mr. Choi (Pas de Deux): The name of the company, “Pas de deux” (French, steps of two) is a duet in which ballet dancers perform the dance together. “Pas de deux” figuratively means love and happiness that can be completed when the passion of the chocolatiers, and the quality of the chocolates are synthesized or harmonized to make a perfect duet. Both my son and I think of chocolate as love, and disseminate the chocolate as we express love to each other. Our brands, “Pas de deux” and “Pas de deux meme” are responsible for different parts of the company. First, “Pas de deux” manages the education from beginner level chocolate classes to a professional level. “Pas de deux meme” manages the manufacturing and sales of our chocolates. The second brand, “Pas de deux meme” is inspired by “Pas de deux” in both philosophy and culture.
NYR: Other than you and your mother, who is involved?
Pas de Deux: All the employees who are involved have been certificated from “Pas de deux” and they all work as stockholders of the company. We all engage in a variety of parts that involve chocolate classes, baking classes, chocolate applied products and many kinds of chocolate drinks. Many graduates of “Pas de deux” individually establish their own handmade chocolate shops all around the country. And the headquarters of “Pas de deux” hosts several seminars every month, which gather all the Pas de deux’s graduates, the first generation of Korean chocolatiers. It truly is a trendsetting committee of handmade chocolate in Korea.
NYR: What do you do exactly - please be as descriptive as possible.
Pas de Deux: It’s been about a decade since we introduced and positioned the company as the first Korean chocolatier and since then the handmade chocolate market has shown consistent growth. The younger generations are showing a love of Western style sweets and desserts and subsequently, for many, they are turning this passion into a profession. “Pas de deux” is the pioneering chocolate school for pre-chocolatiers while still providing productions of chocolate, chocolate applied baking, education of chocolate drinks, consulting for chocolate businesses, overseas employment and a cultural exchange of Korean handmade chocolate with foreign countries.
NYR: Why chocolate - what about this dessert do you love so much?
Pas de Deux (Ms. Kim): I loved chocolate since I was a kid and thought the value of chocolate could be expressed as an art and admiring gift. When I thought about it, handmade chocolate really does have an endless amount of taste and design. And once I realized I could make art with them I made a decision to become a chocolatier for rest of my life.
NYR: Where did you learn your technique?
Pas de Deux (Ms. Kim): My major was sociology at University, and I went to Japan to study more about my major but I fell in love with pastry and chocolate while I was staying there. I figured that I had to flow my heart, so I took a flight to London entering Le Cordon Bleu, London. After graduating, I worked simultaneously as a chocolatier in a hotel in London and at a chocolate shop in Paris, taking the Euro-train every day. Later on, I also worked as the head patissier at an European Hotel.
NYR: What is your favorite shape/object/thing to make?
Pas de Deux: We strive to mix traditional Korean ingredients with chocolate. By doing so, we feel that this makes a unique taste that everybody loves and when this happens I feel like I’ve done something right. It is a thrilling happiness to be able to express in chocolate.
NYR: Do you have any plans to expand outside of Seoul?
Pas de Deux: For the past decade, the Korean chocolate market has been constantly growing and we believe the product lines of Korean chocolate such as cakes, desserts and chocolate drinks are already at a world-class level. Furthermore, unique recipes with Korean ingredients are developed through “Pas de deux”. Therefore, we are now seeking global business partners in a variety of countries who recognize the worth of our company and help us to distribute throughout the world. In early 2012, we are planning to sponsor at the Korean (K) Pop Star Awards in Japan and hope it can help us to achieve more brand recognition.
NYR: Do you work with any foreigners/Westerners?
Pas de Deux: We are always able to communicate and work with foreigners. Through a variety of global exchanges, we seek to share Korean handmade chocolate culture, industrial information and the great taste of our chocolate. We are also hoping to gain attention for the Korean handmade chocolate market through this interview. Lastly, we are constantly maintaining connections with Japanese chocolatiers and every year we visit them to share trends, market updates and other useful information.
NYR: What are your company’s goals in the next five years?
Pas de Deux: The main goal of our company is to extend our recipes worldwide. For us to stay competitive we are constantly developing and researching on new recipes that can fascinate and please our customers. As a result, our final long-term purpose is to make a Korean chocolate association and academy of chocolate studies so that research and development of handmade chocolate can be improved.