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Helen Kim - Oori Bakeshop

Image by Blazin Visualz

A flair for business runs in Helen Kim’s blood. The local bartender, baker, and businesswoman grew up watching her parents work in their restaurant so it is only fitting that she has now started her establishment. After the pandemic hit, Kim, like many people around the world, took to baking as a labor of love. However, unlike new bread baking fanatics, Kim used her passion to open up Oori Bake Shop––Oori which means “us” or “our” in Korean. Although it may seem like Kim wears many hats (bartender, baker, businesswoman), there is a lot to learn about the way she pursues her passions and continues to infuse joy in all aspects of her life. 

How did you go from being a bartender to becoming an entrepreneur?

Baking is not my first endeavor. I own a consulting business called Liquid Culture as well. I consult with any service industry related item: beverage programs, hospitality training, product training, branding, etc. I have been in the bar industry for a long time. I started in restaurants. My parents had a small restaurant and then I started bartending when I was about 19 or 20 years old. I’ve been doing this for a very long time. Then, about three or four years ago, I realized that I didn’t want to be a manager or work for someone else. I wanted freedom. I like doing events and I wanted to do more events. I wanted to have the freedom of doing the nerdy cocktail stuff but also the fun events. Forming my own company was my way of trying to appease both sides of my life. 

How did you start Oori Bake Shop? What’s your baking journey?

To be honest, I was just doing the bakeshop as a hobby since March. I was like, oh, I’m at home. Why not? I started baking and doing little projects and then it took over my life. I would schedule my entire days around baking. I would schedule it around dough making and fermentation. I would wake up and start baking. A lot of my close friends, who I used as my guinea pigs, told me that I should sell my products. People would message me and ask if I sold my products and if they could buy them from me. I did a little here and there but nothing serious. One day I just woke up and I was like I should just do this. I’ve grown up in the kitchen my entire so I was like, why not? My family owned a small deli bakery. We did like Brooklyn style water bagels. My dad baked all the bread so we did hoagies and croissants. He did all the baking and I loved it.  I like the early mornings and the smell of fresh bread. Then, remembering all those aspects of life that I enjoyed while doing my hobby, I could see myself doing it for a living. Here I am three-four months later.

So you are a bartender, a baker, and a businesswoman. How do your passions inform one another?

It’s a full-circle thing. I started in the food industry with my parents. Then, I started working as a server because there’s more money there. There’s always more money in front of the house. I was cocktailing at a bar and I wanted to start bartending. I wanted to learn. It just seemed so fun. I started as The shot girl. From there, I started bartending and I’ve been doing that since I was 20. Now, I am back into food. I construct cocktails the way that I would construct food. I am always thinking about my base flavor or the main component of something. It’s like a layer of flavors. That’s how I do cocktails and now that’s how I do food. It’s like one full circle.

What are your favorite aspects of the job? What are some challenges?

I’ve been in the bar and restaurant industry for quite some time.  I love being a bartender.  I love the culture, the people… I get to meet awesome people. It gives me so many opportunities and it’s such a people industry. But there is the flip side to it. It is a booze industry. As I’m getting older, I’m thinking about the late nights and the constant drinking. Although the mindset is changing and becoming more health-conscious, I am starting to look at other things. I’m working on my yoga certification right now. For people like myself, and I think a lot of people are in this position, I feel like the pandemic has allowed me to just try to change my life without having a schedule to abide by. I have all the time in the world. Why not? Let’s just try it and see what happens. 

How has COVID-19 affected you personally and professionally?

Professionally, I’ve been officially unemployed since March. I am now self-employed. I guess I was always self-employed…I still have my other company, but it’s event and hospitality-based, so there is not much work coming in right now. But personally, it’s been great because I was working as a brand ambassador. I covered all the southeast. I traveled a lot so personal time was very little. Even if I did go out, like dinner with friends, when you work in accounts or for a brand, it doesn’t ever turn off. The pandemic has allowed us to be able to do different things. You can say to yourself, “You know what I’m not working right now, like literally not working, and I am just not gonna look at social media for like two or three days” and be totally okay with it. I love that. At first, it gives you anxiety but once it settles in, I love it. I love doing my own thing. I love making my own schedule. I don’t answer to anyone. It’s awesome. 

What, if anything, do you hope a Post COVID-19 Word resembles for you as a person and as a member of the hospitality industry?

I’d like to continue doing what I’m doing. I just started. I am in my first week and let me tell you there are a lot of learning curves. Hopefully, my baking becomes a profitable business where I can sustain myself without having to work the late nights. That’s what I’m trying to avoid. I was working at jobs where I was up till 5:30 in the morning. Now, I’m getting up at 5:30 in the morning to start my day. It’s opposites and it’s an amazing feeling because I get so much done. I feel good. When you live the vampire life, even if you don’t drink, it takes a toll on your body and your spirit. It feels very weighing. I don’t want to go back to that so I’m in a really good space right now.  I want to keep this energy and take it forward and see where it goes.

What are your favorite pieces of bread to bake and why?

I love a true sourdough loaf.  That is my favorite thing because it’s so technique-driven. I wouldn’t say that I’m a master sourdough baker but I am just obsessed with it. Sourdough is one of those things that is ever-changing. You’re constantly learning new things. Then, your environment changes and that changes your bake. It’s just like when life throws you a pandemic and you have to pivot. Sourdough does the same thing. Somehow, for some reason, it is five degrees warmer in my house and now everything is proofing so much faster and now I’m doing this, and this all at the same time. It’s fun. The Japanese milk bread that I have on the menu right now is also one of my favorite things to bake. It just reminds me of childhood. In Asia, most of the breads that we eat are fluffy, soft, white breads. For me, it’s very nostalgic and the little loaves are pretty. 

How may we order your product?

You can order mainly through Instagram. I’m handling all my orders through direct messages on both my personal and the big shop account.

Oori Menu
Helen Kim - Oori Bakeshop 161

To contact Helen or follow her journey:

Instagram:  @helenkimchi, @ooribakeshop, @liquidcultureco

**All the images credits goes to @Blazinvisualz

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Barbara Peña - Bartender @ The Local

Local Miami Bartender Barbara “Barby” Pena has been positively impacting and servicing patrons for over a decade. Before the 2019 Coronavirus Epidemic, you could have stepped into The Local Craft Food & Drink and Pena would have crafted you a drink that is individualized, creative and inspired. However, Pena, like others in the service industry, can now only hope that she will be able to continue fulfilling her passion for bartending. 

What inspired you to become a bartender?

A long time ago, there was a spot called Clandestino Pub on South Beach. Working at Clandestino was my main introduction to the craft cocktail world and ever since then I have fallen in love. Bartending is like cooking but with liquor and I love to cook. 

What are your favorite aspects of the job?

From the type of people that you meet to the conversations that you have to the cocktails you make…Every day is a new adventure. There are so many different worlds that come with bartending. You can work in different atmospheres. You can work at a place where you have conversations and make bonds with people. Some of my regulars have become my friends. Some of them have gone to my kids’ baby showers. There’s something special about the industry that I work in. There’s something magical.

What have you learned about the people you serve? How has this knowledge influenced your craft?

 I learn something new every day. It truly is incredible to experience things through my guests and my regulars. Also, I make different types of cocktails for people and decipher what kind of drink they would like. You can walk up to me and I will make you something that you like. I have played that game with a lot of people who never had a real cocktail and are intimidated about ordering a drink. One time I had someone tell me that they want something “witchy and romantic.” I made her a smokey drink that had a flower tea that changed color once you added lemon to it. She was blown away. It is crazy how you can change someone’s day so easily, someone who could be going through a lot. I’ve talked people out of doing dumb things and I have heard people out. Sometimes I feel like a psychiatrist but my prescriptions are drinks. 

What are your favorite drinks?

My favorite drink is a New York Sour. They are delicious. It’s both boozy and refreshing. It’s a funky cocktail and it’s very pretty too. It has egg whites in it and it has a very beautiful process. I really enjoy making it for people who never had it. Every time they say, “Oh my God! It’s amazing!” 

The Local Barbie 44 1 scaled
Images by Blazin Visualz

Do you have any remarkable opportunities/ stories that have happened because of your job? If so, what are some of these experiences?

I met the love of my life through working in this industry. You never know what the future holds and it was very sweet how I met him. He walked into The Local and was like, “ You are the bartender that used to work at Roll Call a long time ago!” Roll Call was a 24 hour bar that was open in Miami. It was wild. As a bartender, I have had very beautiful and touching encounters, very emotional moments. This industry has taught me how we are all so different but it is beautiful to be able to have a moment with all these different humans. 

How has COVID-19 affected you personally and professionally?

I have always had two jobs. I work at The Local and the crew is like a family. Everyone has been there for five or six years. We all have seen a lot of each other but this has changed since the pandemic. My second job was at 1-800 Lucky and they are running a tight, skeleton crew there. I haven’t gone back to work. The pandemic has definitely brought a lot of questions: How permanent is this? Is this going to affect the service industry unlike jobs where you can work from home?

What, if anything, do you hope a Post COVID-19 Word resembles for you as a person and as a member of the hospitality industry?

In a post-COVID-19 world, we are going to be more aware of washing our hands and personal space. I honestly don’t know what to expect. I just hope all of us as humans try to become better humans. I think this whole experience is very awakening. I hope we can take all the positives and create a better, healthier world. The uncertainty of the service industry is scary for all of us bartenders. I don’t know if things will go back to normal and whether we can rely on the industry as the main source of income as we have done for years. I do have a fall back plan of going back to school if all else fails. I was thinking about becoming a dental hygienist. I know it is so different but I would be going for job security. Let’s hope that things take a turn for the best and that our industry survives. 

If you had your own drink, bar or business, what would it be like and why?

I would have a little coffee shop. Maybe I would make it a speakeasy during the night with wine and poetry. I would want a Mom and Pop shop that my family could visit. 

To contact Barby or follow her journey:

Instagram: @lepetitdinosaur

Email: barbarapenam@gmail.com

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Ray Mozak - Bar Manager Novikov Miami

 How did you discover your career?

I grew up in a family-owned bar/restaurant that had nothing but chicken wings, burgers, and beer. Nothing really fancy, but I loved the hospitality aspect of it. I started bussing tables and bar backing.  I was also in the kitchen, but where I really felt most at home was at the bar. I loved the regulars coming in on a Friday night.  They’d listen to my stories and talk about their plans for the weekend and so on. I had a great time behind the bar. Believe it or not, I’m kind of a loner by nature.  When I’m not at work, I shut-in at home and am focused on whatever I need to do there. So it was a way for me to kind of open up and be more of a social butterfly. I love serving drinks and getting to meet people.

Growing up in northern New York, Rochester. There were no opportunities for me to build knowledge there, everything was just beer and wine and some spirits, but people didn’t want craft cocktails back then. Then one day I decided to quit my job and travel.  I did that for a year and then I was like “Ok, it’s time to move back to Rochester and start a career, a new life, and reinvent myself.” Not long after returning, I was like “Alright, just one more vacation and then I’m going to do this for real!” I went on Expedia and found a special package flight and hotel for a $600 weekend to Miami. I’d never been there so I figured, why not, let’s go explore Miami!

When I came down here, I just immediately loved it. The whole craft cocktail scene was booming. I’d go to hotel lobby bars and ask the bartenders what things were. They were making so many cocktails I’d never even heard about. It was really exciting for me because they were doing the same things I was doing at home, but at the next level. They were interacting with and educating the guest at the same time. That’s when I fell in love with the craft and realized it was more than just a job for me. I continued to come down to Miami and, after the 3rd trip, found a realtor and told her I needed to move here as soon as possible. I went back to Rochester and she called a few days later to say she had the perfect apartment. So I did what I had to do in Rochester and moved to Miami. 

I didn’t think I was going to find a job right away, but I found one within 3 hours of landing, I really did. The realtor picked me up, showed me my place, signed the lease, we did the walkthrough and then she pointed me in the direction of a furniture store because I came with nothing but my dog and 2 suitcases, so I needed a bed. On the way, I walked into a bar on 16th and Collins and walked out with a job. I told them I was from New York, that I was a bartender and have done this for a while and they said: “We like New Yorkers, they’re hard workers, can you start next week?”  And that’s how my career started in Miami. 

When did you develop a love for mixology?

It was when I found a job at 1 Hotel.  They had recently opened Beachcraft and I worked for the beverage director there, Charles Steadman.  He became my idol, the way he was talking about beverages, cocktails, mixing things together, this guy knew everything!  I was star-struck and kept thinking: “How do I become that?” That’s when my love for mixology started, discovering that you can mix so many flavors, you can mix 2 opposite flavors and turn it into something totally different and it pairs well together. I worked under him for a year and then he moved somewhere else. But he was extremely inspiring. Beachcraft was all about garden-to-glass, a lot of the ingredients were grown right on the property, which got me into sustainability and thinking more innovatively. There are multiple layers of bartending and mixology. Personally, I don’t like the term “mixologist” very much. I’m more into it because of the hospitality, the opportunity to create a good cocktail by throwing ideas together.  As long as the flavors match and pair well and go nicely with the food, hey, I’m happy. I just made your day and took you on a journey you will remember for a long time. I was having the most fun pairing food and beverages together.

Now that you mention it, what would be your favorite F&B pairing?

Well, I like a lot of sashimi, sushi, and raw food and I’ll pair it with any cocktail with a little bit of yuzu and sake mixed together. It’s like a palate cleanser and then you can taste the fish more. It cuts the acidity on the fattier fish. That’s my favorite nowadays. A couple of years ago, I was into pairing fat washing Bourbon with steak fat. I’m currently trying to create a drink that pairs well with duck since we are famous for our Peking duck.

Which specialty cocktail would you recommend we try at Novikov?

I would say the Smoking Gun cocktail. I just created this for Coconut Cartel and it’s a really simple drink but with a lot of flavor. It comes with a flavor bubble on top, which pops and then you get the aroma. It’s made with a vapor gun that you can add essential oils to. Right now I have grapefruit, rosemary, and citrus. It’s fairly new, we launched it at the beginning of March and we’re still figuring out the bubble! It’s very temperamental, so I’d suggest trying it at the bar. As for the ingredients, they are super simple, just add a little bit of sweet vermouth to Coconut Cartel rum and some orange bitters, which make it a very palatable drink. I’d recommend trying it as a digestif or with our chocolate lava cake.

What is your main source of inspiration when you create cocktails for the menu?

I love to observe and learn about our guest’s preferences. We have an amazing beverage program with a lot of fascinating ingredients and techniques. In general, I find that our clientele wants a drink that is fast and tasteful. They love exotic ingredients or odd pairings like wasabi and vodka, or shiso and yuzu. Something very easy to make but high on flavor.  I came up with the Shiso: it’s pineapple, yuzu, and muddled shiso.  It’s super easy to make, it goes well with every single one of our sushi rolls, our sashimis, our raw fish, anything. Then, we have a lot of drinks inspired by the balloon glasses, since people love them. So we did Strawberry Spritz, with beautiful garnishes…when people see it passing by, they order it. We also did a take on Moscow Mule, with salted cucumber infusion, Ketel One Botanical, cucumber, mint, and salt. 

The Oaxacan Sun I’m very proud of.  If this is not the number one seller, it’s definitely the second. It’s made with Mezcal, passion fruit, agave, a little piece of serrano, and topped off with ginger beer.  

Which drink would you recommend for:

A. Girls’ night out: Strawberry Spritz or a Lychee Martini 

B. Gentlemen after work: Oaxacan Sun or El Gringo 

C. Couple’s first date: Sake. I would stay away from the cocktails, based on my experience. You don’t want to drink fast, right?

Which wine would you recommend by the glass?

I’m a big fan of Sancerre and Chablis, especially with our cuisine here. They pair very well with a lot of dishes. 

What’s next on the horizon for you?

Since I’m still young, I’m just happy to get through the day and go home, hug my fiance and think “ok, let’s do this all over again tomorrow.” But I’m open to anything and I don’t turn away opportunities either. I love my job. I’m very happy with what I do. I don’t look at it like a “job,” so I’m lucky in that sense. I’d love to grow in my career as a Manager, whether it’s as a Beverage Director or Restaurant Manager. I just want to grow as a person and be able to build a better team, be a better teacher and a better leader. That’s all I want to do.

 

  • Check Ray’s Instagram for easy DIY at home Cocktail Recipes at @drinksbyray
  • @Novikovmiami is currently selling their top specialty cocktails to-go, 18oz pouches with garnishes included $45 (serve 4) call, order, and pick up!. Enjoy an Old Fashion, Wasabi Martini, Agave Picante, or a Cosmopolitan

 

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