South Korea

Younghoon Lee is originally from Pyeongtaek just south of Seoul, Younghoon’s love for all things culinary comes from his grandmother. As a child, Younghoon dreamed of being an architect or designer, but failed his university entrance exam and turned to cooking. He went to catering college, then worked in Seoul for French chef Florent Lescouezec (Café des Arts), where he first heard the name Paul Bocuse. 4 years later, he set off for Ecully, near Lyon, to study at the Institut Paul Bocuse. He learned the basics at L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges, (three Michelin stars), then at Lasserre in Paris, which then had two Michelin stars. And suddenly there he was, ready to start his own venture. In 2014 he opened a small gourmet restaurant, Le Passe Temps. There are three cheeses on the menu, which he chooses himself, having learned that in Lyon a meal without cheese doesn’t quite hit the mark!

What are your childhood memories around food?
Younghoon Lee :

We ate well at home, but it was the food cooked by my grandmother that I loved most. Then one day, my mother was going out to meet some friends and asked me to make something to eat. I’ve always had an artistic bent; I wanted to work in the creative industries, to have the chance to express my personality – so I took this opportunity to add my own little touches to the instructions I’d been given. And it was really good. When I was at catering college in Seoul, I felt the same pride when I saw people enjoying the food I had cooked.

How did you feel when you got to France?
Younghoon Lee :

It was very hard at first. It was the first time I’d ever left my country, and I didn’t speak French. I traded my experience in the French restaurant in Seoul for language lessons. I realised that I knew very little about French cuisine; it wasn’t really available to Koreans at the time. I thought it was all about novelty and creativity, but now I see that tradition is an integral part of it all.

How has Lyon treated you?
Younghoon Lee :

The early days at Le Passe Temps were difficult. I remember a woman coming in and insisting on ordering sushi. My wife had to explain that I was a Korean chef who cooked French food. Over the years, I’ve tried to add a touch of Korea to my cooking; one of my signature dishes is foie gras in a soya broth.

Expressing my personality
And where does cheese come in?
Younghoon Lee :

In Korea, we don’t use butter, cream or milk at all in our cooking, and we don’t eat cheese. I had tried a few Italian cheeses back home, but the first French cheese I tasted was a blue one. What a revelation!

Say “Sweet Cheese”!
Younghoon Lee :

When I first came here, I used to eat bread and cheese with a glass of red wine. Then one day, someone served me cheese with honey, white wine and marmalade. It was so good! Later on, I had goat’s cheese sorbet in a gourmet restaurant. When Sweet Cheese called, I really wanted to take part, to create something that worked well even in my culture. Korean food uses a lot of spices, so I looked around for a spice that would go well with Comté and came up with cinnamon. Then I needed a Korean recipe that uses cinnamon, and thought of sujeonggwa, a drink we often have in the summer months made with water, ginger, cinnamon, pine nuts and dried persimmon. I added morel mushroom powder to complement the Comté, a hint of sea salt, and meringue to give crunch.

Chef's tips in video
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Usefull information

Le Passe Temps

52 rue Tronchet

69006 Lyon

+33 (0)4 72 82 90 14

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