Juhui Bae: Korea to Italy and back

Juhui Bae: Korea to Italy and back

The Italian gelato-making schools are seeing increasing numbers of people from abroad, who are coming to Italy to learn a profession to take back with them to their own countries. This is the story of Juhui Bae, a girl from South Korea who attended the Perugia School and then helped open a new gelato shop in Seoul.

Why did you choose Italian gelato?
When I was at university, I studied Italian for a few months as a hobby and right after that I went on a trip to Italy. I liked Italy very much but I didn't believe it was going to change my future.
After graduation I enrolled in a master's program in public administration but at a certain point I realized that it wasn't what I was looking for. I wanted to do something that would really excite me, instead of following the beaten path. I stopped everything and tried to understand what I really wanted to do: it was then that I remembered how much I liked Italy and hand-made gelato.
So I started studying Italian again for more than a year, I signed up for a course at the Gelato Making School of Perugia and I made it.

What were the next steps?
After the course on gelato making, I served as an apprentice with Mr. Cianuri in Perugia and then with Mr. Di Benedetto in Udine. I wanted to put into practice what I had learned on the course and also learn new things. When I went back to Korea, I found a company that wanted to open an Italian-style gelato shop in Seoul. They didn't have much knowledge of Italian gelato and they asked me to work with them. Besides, I needed experience in this field in Korea and it seemed like an interesting opportunity.

Did you come up against any particular obstacles?
Well, it wasn't easy, especially because I was opening up a new path for Korea. There were some obstacles that I had never imagined in Italy, for example a different kind of sugar.
In the end, anyway, we managed it and last year we opened up the “Pozzo” gelato shop in Seoul and it's going well.

How is ice cream consumed in Korea?
Unfortunately, in our country ice cream is still considered something for children and teenagers. Adults are not used to eating snacks and they think it's bad manners to eat something on the street. This definitely limits consumption, but things are changing slowly.
More ice cream is consumed in the summer, but enough is sold in the winter too. In Korea no ice cream shops close for the winter, in fact, some people buy ice cream in the winter as a seasonal treat.
Do you think people are properly aware of the difference between hand-made gelato and industrially made ice cream?
In general, the difference between hand-made gelato and ice cream isn't understood. We don't have a culture of gelato like in Italy. American ice cream came to our country before hand-made gelato, and sometimes people think that the latter is a new brand of ice cream!
What are the favorite flavors? Have you invented any inspired by your own country?
The biggest seller is frozen yoghurt, especially blueberry-flavored frozen yoghurt. I also like hazelnut flavor very much but it's not very well known here in Korea.
As far as I'm concerned, I created gelato with the flavor of Yuzu (a type of lemon that in my country we take with sweet tea and is good for treating colds) and black sesame seeds.

Let's close with some advice for people who would like to become gelato makers...
A proverb from over here says “a genius can't beat someone who's doing the best he can, and anyone who does his job as well as he can can't beat someone who has fun at work,” so have fun!

Juhui Bae: Korea to Italy and back
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