From Tous Les Jours to Paris Baguette, if you've ever stepped inside a Korean bakery, you would know Korean bakeries are the bomb. Asian baked goods are especially tasty. It's often much softer, subtly less sweeter in taste and deliciously chewier in texture. Recently, I caught up with the lovely Lisa from Guilt Free Bakery. Lisa and I met in design school while we were both studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology and she is a talented young fashion student turned business owner of Guilt Free Bakery in South Korea. Guilt Free Bakery is a healthy (and equally tasty) version of korean baked goods, with vegan, low GI and gluten free options using freshly sourced ingredients and 100% organic whole-grains hand made by Lisa herself.
Please introduce yourself.
Hello. My name is Lisa Lee, the owner and chef of Guilt Free Bakery. I started my business a little while after I graduated from FIT in 2013.
You graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology for fashion design. Did you surprise yourself when you started your business as a baker, not a designer?
When I was at F.I.T majoring in fashion design, l always LOVED baking. I often experimented by creating my own recipes, especially healthy and vegan versions of traditional baked goods. Even when I had tons of major projects and deadlines, I really enjoyed baking and used it as a way to handle my stress from the piles and piles of work at school.
Would say that you were a baker when you were in fashion school?
Yes! After I finished the Associates program at F.I.T, I came back to Korea and had some time to think about what I really wanted to do. While I do love fashion, I realized that my life was too short to stick to just one career for the rest of my life. I decided to do something I really love to do and began experimenting in a different field. As you know, trying new things is always exciting!
It must have been quite difficult for you to make such an important decision that changes your career path radically?
If I said no, I would be lying. It took a lot of courage, but I thought that starting this bakery would be something I would regret if I didn't do. I just decided to take the risk and give it a shot. After all, when you're 21, what have you got to lose? Luckily, I made an amazing decision and really love what I’m doing now!
There's something really special about your bakery. Can you tell us a little bit more?
All baked goods in Guilt Free Bakery made with 100% organic whole-grains. Everything is also vegan, non-dairy, sugar-free, butter-free with no artificial preservatives.
How did you become interested in creating a healthy bakery?
My dream is to create a bakery for everyone to enjoy. In 2010, my dad had surgery for a cardiovascular disease. It was a huge turning point in my life. I became more concerned about people’s health. I also lost about 30 lbs and suffered from OCD. I regularly craved sweets but I had to resist it. Even though I tried to find healthy baked goods in stores, it was quite impossible. That made me begin looking for a way that health conscious people like my father could also enjoy delicious baked goodies, as well as people with lactose intolerance, diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. In the beginning, I started modifying some recipes which claimed to be healthy at home, but I wasn’t fully satisfied with the ingredients listed because I wanted every single ingredient to be healthy: healthy whole-grains, sugar-free, low fat, no butter, low calories and no preservatives. So I decided to create my own recipes. That took lots of experimenting!
You mentioned that your baking philosophy is based on nutrient science?
Yes. I've always loved learning and discovering new information. I'm very fascinated with basic nutrient science so one of my hobbies is reading studies and articles related to diet and nutrition. While I was studying at FIT, I took a nutrition class taught by Professor. Junkerman. She is an amazing professor (hard grader, though). I’d bring questions to her after class and she really helped to deepen my knowledge and understanding about health and nutrition. Even though it was a tough class, it made me really happy to be learning about something that I really care about.
Who do you look up as your role model?
If you asked me to pick one person, in an aspect of running a business - I would say Erin McKenna from Babycakes NYC. I particularly love how she has successfully carried her bakery’s unique image along with her business.
What is your dream for your business to become? Do you want to become as big as Paris Baguette or Tous les Jour one day?
I do love the marketing strategies that the most famous Korean brands like Paris Baguette and Tous les Jours have taken. They have made Korean-style breads and desserts easily accessible to people across the globe with thousands of branches all over the world. As a Korean, that makes me very proud. However, to deliver the same taste and consistency, they have to freeze their dough from their factories and send it to their branches. Then, each branch bakes the dough and sells it. To make baked goods through mass production doesn’t match with my philosophy because I think that food has to be made with love - by giving all of one’s heart and effort. My dream for my business is for my bakery to expand globally but without losing its integrity. The products will remain high-end, hand-made and I would like to maintain a small-scale production. I believe in healthy and delicious high-quality baked goods.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to start their own bakery business?
If you are someone who is thinking about changing career paths like I did, don’t be afraid of trying new things. But there is one thing to remember - don’t do the same things other people have already done. Try to think of what your business can do for people and the world, and the rest will follow.
How old were you when you started the bakery?
I started my bakery last year, so I was 21.
Are all the baked goods handmade by you?
Yes, which is the most enjoyable part of my business!