When Jang Kwon was a young boy, he used to pick up cakes and other pastries just down the street from where he lived in the Park Extension neighborhood of Montreal.
But then her family moved to the South Shore and the nearest bakery was a 10-minute drive away.
“My parents used to say, ‘If you want cakes, now you have to make them yourself,'” Kwon recalls. They handed him a box of Duncan Hines cake mix and seven-year-old Kwon got to work on his first cake.
The IT manager for Concordia’s Education and Information Technology Services (IITS) has been cooking ever since.
On May 23, Kwon will showcase his hard-earned skills on Food Network Canada’s new show bakers wall. the Chiefs Wall spin-off features amateur bakers who compete over three rounds in front of the best pastry chefs in the country, for a chance to win $10,000.
Two key ingredients: determination and preparation
Kwon’s big breakthrough comes after years of competing in different cooking competitions.
“After eight years of rejection, you tend to say, ‘Okay, here’s another one.’ I read the email over and over – it was surreal,” he recalls.
To prepare for the show, he watched every episode of Chiefs Wall that he could get his hands on it.
“I really studied what’s going on – how contestants were eliminated, what they didn’t do or what they did wrong – and transferred that to a cooking environment”, explains Kwon. “So it was a summer of a lot of baked goods.”
Fortunately, he had an easier time getting flour that summer than the previous one, when the COVID-19 pandemic started when everyone was cooking. “I was so desperate that I splurged and shelled out $20 for a bag of organic flour,” he says.
A well-kept secret
Kwon has worked at IITS for almost 28 years, but many of his colleagues are only now discovering his abilities in the kitchen. As Kwon says, he is bilingual: he knows how to cook and to cook.
“People who know me won’t be at all surprised at how I behave on the show. They will be surprised to see another side of me – the one who can cook,” he says.
Curiously, Kwon attests, IT management and baking aren’t as different as you might think.
“You need to multi-task and keep your eyes and hands alert – watching things and adjusting as you go. That’s pretty much what I do every day in my job.
“It’s just a matter of practice”
For those interested in baking, Kwon points out that you need to be patient as you learn to improvise and improve from mistakes.
“If the result isn’t perfect, try again. No two cooking sessions are alike,” he says.
“In today’s generation with all these shows, there’s a lot of pressure for the beginning baker to perform at this level. It doesn’t happen overnight. »
Although Kwon isn’t planning on opening his own bakery anytime soon, he’s welcome to the idea of a side hustle.
“If I start getting special cooking requests, I’d be happy to do that.”
Catch Jang (JJ) Kwon on bakers wall May 23 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Canadian Food Network.
Follow Kwon on Instagram under @cookyoucan.
Learn more about Concordia Education and Information Technology Services.