Meet Soonkack Kook Of Midtown
Today we’d like to introduce you to Soonkack Kook.
Hi Soonkack, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
Retired sergeant from US Army with few medals made me believe I could overcome most of obstacles. I graduated from UH with a business degree and worked in the IT industry for about 10 years. After that, I went into a franchise fast-food restaurant business and I found myself I like being an owner rather than working for someone else even though I was not necessarily making more money than working for someone else. At this point, it wasn’t all about money. I wanted to do something I would enjoy. Working at a office, I was drinking lots of coffee, and I thought I was good at it. I drove around town looking for espresso beans at Starbucks and Whole food. I had a tiny little manual espresso machine which I used a lot. I wanted to get out of the franchise industry and started my own franchise, and Brunch restaurant looked pretty good to me. I found a coffee school in Dallas, then I went to a cooking school, and bakery school. I did not feel like I was ready, so I went to another coffee school. Once I thought I knew something, I wanted to gain practical knowledge, so I applied for a job at Starbucks and worked there for about a year. I learned how to deal with a massive number of orders, and how to make quick drinks. However, I realized it was not the specialty coffee I wanted to do. I searched top specialty coffee shops in town and I found few so I began to work there. With the experience and knowledge, I had, I was able to work in the kitchen half the time and the other half as a barista. I learned a lot about making different syrups, coffee, muffins, cookies, and etc. As I worked, I realized more that I wanted to learn more. However, there wasn’t any advanced coffee education available in the city. there are 2 certificates that are recognized the most in the coffee industry. one was SCA AST (Specialty Coffee Association Authorized SCA Trainer), and the other was a Q grader. Since it was nearly impossible to look for schools that offers these classes, I had to look for those schools outside of the country. It took nearly one year to finish the courses, and was not easy. Failed few times, and cost thousands of dollars. Now, I feel I know one or 2 things about coffee. However, I do not want to display any attitude that I know more and do better. I am working at coffee shops in town as a regular barista. I am not flashing my experiences and telling people what they are doing wrong unless they ask me my opinions. the more I learn about coffee, I have learned that service and experiences are more important than coffee itself. I want to create a space where baristas can engage with customers, connect customers with farmers, and making customers feel good about how they help farmers on the other side of the earth
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
It was not smooth. People in the coffee industry is very confident. Most of them worked in the industry for years. It is the industry where your sensory count which is coming from the experiences and years you put. My opinion or advice can hardly count when my years are a few years short of others. My typical Asian attitude that does not like to speak up did not help either. Also, my heavy accent makes me look less educated. As a result, I had to work harder and wanted to learn more
Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I make coffee. I serve specialty coffee which is more expensive than those quick service coffee. I want to make sure every penny my customer gives me is worth it. I tried to go beyond and give services and want to make my customers feel good
I am known as a friendly barista which I am proud of.
I set myself apart from others by having a great desire to learn new trends of coffee as well as the history of coffee. I have traveled around their world to learn new ways of making coffee and roasting coffee
I have purchased top-of-the-line products in the industry such as Coffee roaster, Espresso Machine, and Batch Brewer and etc. I Had to do it once I found out it helps greatly to make better coffee
For instance, the coffee batch brewer to make drip coffee was almost 10 times more expensive than average market batch coffee brewer. Once I was told the quality of the coffee it makes, I could not go back
I have spent so much money that it almost does not make sense, and I dont even think I can make returns on the investment I made
I want to create a playground for Baristas where they can actually learn with the best equipments and apply skills they have
I have purchased the best water filter equipment in the market, so I can provide the good tasty water to my customers and coffee that was made with tasty water
I have purchased every single test equipment available such as Water PH tester, Water TDS tester, coffee bean density Analyzer, coffee bean moist analyzer, coffee refractometer to analyze espresso or brewed coffee. I wanted to make tasty coffee that was made objectively to have the consistency, not relying on the sensory skill of the barista who is working behind the bar that day
If I do everything correctly by all the courses I took, certificates I have earned, experiences I have gained, I can probably make some good tasty coffee which will make my customers to buy more coffee beans which will create a more sustainable future of coffee for all
Un caffe roastery will be open at the beginning of 2023 in Houston midtown. The address is 3217 Milam St. Houston, TX 77006.
Is there anyone you’d like to thank or give credit to?
Daehoon Park, the winner of the 2016 Italian Espresso Championship, taught me how to do Italian Roasting, dark roasting
Ben Helt, Director, Authorized SCA Trainer Program, who trained me to be an Authorized SCA Trainer.
SungHyun Joo, the winner of the 2017 Korea Roasting Championship and 2018 Tisca International Roast Cup, who taught me how to do light roasting without damaging the beans.
Ally Lim Calenda, a manager at a Houston local coffeeshop, who tells me local vendor information and inside info.
Miran Oh, Q grader Instructor, who has the great enthusiasm to teach people on specialty coffee.
Guiding Cha, an AST Trainner, who gave me the great understating of the espresso machines.
Olivia Palacio, a manager at a coffee shop in Houston, who gave me a chance to work at my first specialty coffee shop.
- Instagram: un.caffe.roastery
Devanno Lopez/Instagram: @errrorr97