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Chef Serin Jin

Chef
SERIN JIN

Turning My Love of Food Into a Successful Career as a Chef

Editor: Jianna Ferrari
Design: MODE Studio

Many people growing up develop interests in various subjects and some even decide that they would work somehow or another in that industry or related industry when they grow up. Some of us wanted to be astronauts, some wanted to be policemen or firefighters, and others wanted to ballerinas or to become a famous chef. For far too many people, their dreams fade away as they get older, but a small minority of the young dreamers continue to focus their energy and time over the years into making their dreams come true. Chef Serin Jin is one of the elite few that manage this transition of youthful dreaming to achieving success in their chosen field. We interview Chef Jin to find out what sacrifices it took for her to make her dreams come true, and hope this will be an encouragement for others that their dreams can indeed become reality if they work it.

 
Chef Serin Jin - Mode Lifestyle Magazine July - August 2024: Page 26-27
Chef Serin Jin – Mode Lifestyle Magazine July – August 2024: Page 26-27
 

MODE: Hello Serin Jin and welcome to Mode Lifestyle Magazine. We are so excited to have you here and want to know at what stage in your life you first realized or decided that you would pursue a life and future as a chef?

JIN: Thank you immensely for the opportunity to be a part of Mode Magazine. My love for food and cooking has been ingrained in me since childhood. One of my earliest memories revolves around watching my grandmother meticulously prepare Gochujang and Sikhye. I was always curious, bombarding her with questions about ingredients and techniques. This insatiable curiosity has been a constant in my life, particularly when it comes to food.

At the age of 15, I landed my very first job as a food runner at a restaurant in my hometown of Seoul. Despite my youth, I was consumed by a profound sense of purpose and determination within the bustling atmosphere of the kitchen. It was then that I realized my calling lay within the vibrant and dynamic world of the restaurant industry.

MODE: It is clear from your numerous and impressive qualifications and certifications that you not only enjoy the culinary experience, but you also take it very seriously as a professional endeavour. How were you able to maintain your focus on your goals during what must have clearly been an intense and challenging educational journey?

JIN: The journey of acquiring my first certificates was initially driven by a desire to demonstrate my unwavering passion to my parents. Attending a prestigious private high school in Korea, they understandably wished for me to pursue a career path they deemed more stable and secure. In Korea, obtaining certificates required rigorous written and practical examinations, a challenge I tackled with steadfast dedication. As I steadily accumulated these accolades, I gradually began to sway my parents’ reservations, ultimately leading to their support for my decision to enroll in culinary school.

My focus shifted towards surpassing my own limits. Over the course of more than a decade in the industry, I encountered numerous obstacles, each serving as a poignant reminder of the arduous path I’ve traversed. Maintaining a beginner’s mindset has been pivotal throughout this journey, symbolized by my steadfast loyalty to the same knife for over a decade. Above all, preserving my passion and enjoyment amidst the challenges has been paramount. It serves as a constant reminder that growth and improvement are perpetual, motivating me to strive for excellence continually.

MODE: Your education and experience building in the culinary industry has led you from getting certifications and awards in South Korea, to studying at Johnson & Wales University, Providence, Rhode Island in the US. What stood out to you the most between studying in the US and studying in Korea?

JIN: Transitioning to the United States presented a monumental challenge for me, especially considering my established education and burgeoning career in Korea. The language barrier and cultural disparities posed the greatest hurdles. In Korea, education is primarily centered around individualized instruction, with a strong emphasis on honing skills and techniques through solitary practice. I vividly recall being tasked with crafting dishes using precisely measured ingredients, following recipes independently.

However, the landscape drastically shifted upon my arrival in America, where collaborative teamwork took precedence. Initially, expressing myself in a language still unfamiliar to me proved daunting, hindering my ability to fully engage in group projects. Yet, with time, I gradually found my voice and grew more confident. Crucially, my success in navigating this transition was largely due to the unwavering support of professors and classmates who believed in my culinary prowess, transcending any language barriers.

MODE: Your work in the industry has led you through working as an Assistant Manager at Bro Burger, Seol, South Korea, to being a Culinary Intern, Line Cook, at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Miami, Florida. Additionally, you were a Sous Chef at the Stubborn Seed, Miami Beach, Florida. How would you say working at such a wide range of establishments has affected your appreciation for the industry?

JIN: Through my journey across various restaurants, I’ve come to a profound realization: regardless of their unique styles and atmospheres, every establishment in this industry shares a common objective—delivering exceptional culinary experiences to their guests. This fundamental truth unites everyone in the culinary world, fostering a collective dedication to gastronomic excellence.

 Interacting with diverse teams, each driven by this singular goal, has provided invaluable insights into the intricacies of restaurant operations. From working in various roles, I have gained a comprehensive understanding of the distinct responsibilities entrusted to each individual. In a well-oiled restaurant machine, the pursuit of “perfect service” hinges on seamless collaboration, with each team member executing their designated tasks with precision and care.

In a chef-driven establishment, it is imperative for the culinary leader to comprehend and oversee every facet of operations. My multifaceted experiences have endowed me with a broadened perspective and deepened respect for the myriad talents that comprise this vibrant industry.

 
Alexander Wang
Jimmy Choo - US

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Chef Serin Jin - Mode Lifestyle Magazine July - August 2024: Page 28-29

MODE: Are there any chefs that you admire or look up to, and what do you admire about them the most?

JIN: I consider myself fortunate to have crossed paths with culinary luminaries early in my career, including the esteemed chef Jacques Pépin and chef Tony Chih-teng Chang. Simply observing their culinary mastery and engaging in conversation with them allowed me to absorb their wealth of experience and dedication to their craft. The invaluable lesson I learned from them is the undeniable power that comes with years of hard work and dedication. I hold immense respect for chefs who have spent decades honing their skills, as they epitomize the enduring passion and commitment necessary to excel in this demanding profession.

One of the most influential figures in my culinary journey is Chef Pablo Zitzmann of Zitz Sum in Coral Gables, FL. His profound impact on me extends beyond culinary techniques; he taught me the art of connecting with people through food. Chef Zitzmann’s mentorship has been instrumental in refining my ability to create dishes that evoke emotions and forge meaningful connections with diners. He continually inspires me to push the boundaries of creativity and innovation, encouraging me to explore new flavors and culinary concepts. Under his guidance, I have embraced the importance of infusing every dish with love and passion, ensuring that the essence of my culinary creations resonates with authenticity and sincerity.

MODE: What would you say is your favourite meal or dish to prepare?

JIN: Choosing a favorite meal or dish to prepare is akin to selecting a favorite child—it’s a challenging task because each dish holds a special place in my heart for different reasons. However, if I had to narrow it down, one dish that I consistently find joy in preparing is American Breakfast.

From fluffy pancakes drizzled with maple syrup to crispy bacon sizzling in the pan, each component of an American breakfast brings its own unique flavor and texture to the table. I love the versatility of breakfast dishes, whether it’s crafting perfectly scrambled eggs, whipping up a batch of golden-brown waffles, or griddling a stack of indulgent French toast.

Moreover, breakfast is a meal that brings people together, fostering a sense of warmth and connection as loved ones gather around the table to share in the experience. It is a time to slow down, savor each bite, and appreciate the simple pleasures of good food and good company. The joy of preparing an American breakfast lies not only in the delicious dishes themselves but also in the memories and moments created around the breakfast table; a sentiment that I cherish deeply as a chef.

MODE: What has been your proudest moment so far in your journey to becoming a chef?

JIN: Throughout my culinary journey, I’ve had the privilege of attending various schools and learning from numerous esteemed chefs. In many instances, I found myself in the role of a recipient, absorbing knowledge and guidance from others. However, one particular moment stands out vividly in my memory—a line cook regarded me as a leader and expressed gratitude for the lessons they were learning from me. It was a profound moment of pride, knowing that I could impart not just techniques but also a positive attitude to my peers.

Being entrusted with the responsibility of imparting knowledge, skills, and a commendable work ethic carries immense weight. I recognize the importance of setting a positive example and strive to consistently leave a lasting impression on those around me. Yet, amidst this responsibility, there’s a unique sense of gratification when someone acknowledges and appreciates my efforts. It serves as a reminder of the impact we can have on each other within this dynamic culinary community.

 

Chef Serin Jin - Mode Lifestyle Magazine July - August 2024: Page 30-31
Chef Serin Jin – Mode Lifestyle Magazine July – August 2024: Page 30-31
 

MODE: Creating menus seems like a complex thing to do. How do you go about creating a coordinated menu?

JIN: When crafting a new dish, the initial focus always revolves around the star ingredient. Fresh, seasonal produce serves as the cornerstone, guiding the direction of flavor profiles and combinations. This process demands extensive research and immersion in culinary literature, exploring the possibilities that complement each ingredient’s essence.

For multi-course menus, achieving a harmonious balance between preceding and subsequent dishes is paramount. Each course must seamlessly segue into the next, creating a cohesive dining experience for patrons. Once the conceptualization phase is complete, I transition to the creative canvas of sketching, outlining the visual and conceptual elements of each dish.

The true magic unfolds in the kitchen, where experimentation and refinement take center stage. From cooking to plating and tasting, every step is meticulously scrutinized to ensure each dish reaches its full potential. Some creations seamlessly earn a coveted spot on the menu after just one attempt, while others require multiple iterations before achieving culinary perfection.

Despite the challenges inherent in this creative process, there’s an undeniable joy that accompanies the journey. For a chef, there’s nothing quite as fulfilling as bringing a vision to life on the plate, captivating diners with an unforgettable culinary experience.

 

MODE: What are the most challenging dishes your have had to prepare?

JIN: Among the dishes I’ve prepared throughout my career, some of the most challenging ones have been those that require intricate techniques, meticulous attention to detail, and a deep understanding of flavour balance.

One particularly challenging dish I recall is a complex multi-component dessert featuring delicate pastry work, intricate sugar sculptures, and precise temperature control. Each element required careful execution and timing to ensure perfect harmony and presentation.

Any dish that incorporates unconventional or exotic ingredients pose unique challenges, requiring extensive research, experimentation, and palate refinement to achieve the desired flavor profile and texture. Ultimately, the most challenging dishes are often those that push me out of my comfort zone, inspiring me to continually innovate, refine my skills, and strive for culinary excellence. Despite the difficulties they may present, these dishes also offer the most rewarding sense of accomplishment when executed flawlessly and enjoyed by diners.

 

MODE: As much as people enjoy going to restaurants and enjoying their favorite dishes as well as exploring new ones, there is also a movement towards more health awareness. Have you made any changes or are you responding in any way to clients’ increasing demands for more healthful dining?

JIN: Absolutely, I believe it’s essential for chefs and restaurants to adapt to the evolving preferences and needs of their guests, including the growing demand for healthier dining options. In response to this trend, I’ve made several changes to my approach to menu development and culinary practices.

I have incorporated more plant-based and vegetarian options into menus to cater to guests with dietary preferences or restrictions. These dishes are thoughtfully crafted to be both delicious and nutritious, showcasing the vibrant flavors and textures of plant-based ingredients. Additionally, I’ve explored alternative cooking techniques that minimize the use of unhealthy fats and oils while preserving the natural integrity of the ingredients. By employing methods such as grilling, steaming, and roasting, I can create dishes that are lighter and lower in calories without compromising on taste.

Ultimately, my goal is to strike a balance between indulgence and wellness, offering diners an array of options that cater to their diverse tastes and dietary preferences. By embracing the principles of healthful dining, I aim to ensure that every guest leaves my restaurant feeling nourished, satisfied, and energized.

 

MODE: You have won multiple awards including Korean National Culinary Competition – Live Cooking Junior Team Leader, Gold Medal 2018; FHC China International Culinary Arts Competition, Duck, Silver Medal, 2016;  HOFEX Hong Kong Food Expo, Live Hot Cooking Spring Chicken, Silver Medal, 2017; and Emirate’s Salon Culinary Cup Dubai, Live Hot Chicken, Silver Medal, 2017. What do you think is the main characteristics that has led to you achieving such an impressive level of success in these various competitions?

JIN: I attribute my success in these prestigious culinary competitions to a combination of several key characteristics. Firstly, a relentless dedication to honing my craft and pushing the boundaries of culinary innovation. Each competition served as an opportunity for me to showcase my skills and creativity, driving me to continuously strive for excellence.

Secondly, a strong foundation in traditional Korean culinary techniques infused with a willingness to embrace global influences. This fusion of traditional and contemporary approaches allowed me to stand out among competitors, offering unique and memorable culinary creations.

Additionally, effective teamwork played a crucial role in our victories, especially in competitions such as the Korean National Culinary Competition. Collaborating seamlessly with my team members, leveraging each other’s strengths, and fostering a supportive environment were essential in achieving our shared goals.

Furthermore, adaptability and resilience were paramount in navigating the high-pressure environments of international competitions. Flexibility in adjusting to diverse ingredients, cultural nuances, and unexpected challenges enabled me to perform at my best under any circumstances. Overall, a passion for culinary excellence, a commitment to continuous improvement, collaborative spirit, adaptability, and resilience collectively propelled me to success in these esteemed competitions.

 

MODE: You have already achieved so much. Where do you see yourself over the next five to ten years in the industry?

JIN: Over the next five to ten years, I envision myself continuing to evolve and make significant strides within the culinary industry, with a primary goal of opening my own restaurant. This venture would be a culmination of my lifelong passion for food, creativity, and hospitality.

My vision for the restaurant extends beyond just a dining establishment; I aspire to create a culinary destination that embodies innovation, excellence, and a deep appreciation for diverse culinary traditions. It will be a space where guests can embark on a memorable culinary journey, experiencing dishes that are both artfully crafted and deeply rooted in authenticity.

Furthermore, I see myself leveraging my experiences and connections within the industry to foster collaborations and partnerships with local producers, artisans, and fellow chefs. By championing sustainability, community engagement, and culinary education, I aim to make a positive impact not only within the walls of my restaurant but also in the broader culinary landscape. In addition to the restaurant, I envision myself furthering my involvement in culinary education and mentorship, empowering the next generation of chefs and culinary enthusiasts to pursue their passions with confidence and determination.

Overall, my vision for the next five to ten years is one of growth, creativity, and meaningful contribution to the culinary world through the realization of my dream restaurant and continued dedication to culinary excellence and innovation.

 

Alexander Wang
Jimmy Choo - US

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