RIDGEWOOD, N.J. — In the five years since Keum Sook Park opened Sook Pastry in Ridgewood, she hasn’t compromised on her original vision: world-class tastes and a down-home feeling.
The display cases in her cozy shop on South Broad Street are filled with French classics and ever-new creations.
“In the beginning, we didn’t have so many selections,” said Park, who lives in Woodcliff Lake. “Little by little, we added. People would ask, ‘Why don’t you have this?’ Then we had it.”
Park, who studied under famed pastry chef Francois Payard, makes irresistible treats.
Not just chocolate mousse. But dark chocolate mousse layered with mango mousse and a raspberry filling.
Not just brioche. But candied orange peel brioche with almond cream and almonds.
Her French and French-inspired creations have made Sook Pastry a darling of Yelp and social media, a destination.
But what pleases Park most is that her place is a haven for people in an intense, busy world.
She likes peering out from her white-and-red flour room, where she works, to see people reading and munching, escaping for a while, or relaxing together over a cup of something wonderful.
Maybe a thirst-quenching hot chai.
Or a hot apple cider or Mochaccino.
“It feels homey. It’s cozy,” said Park. “People have a good time.”
In addition to variety, she believes quality is an essential ingredient for success.
The coffee Park buys are oh so expensive.
“Most places have great coffee when they first open,” she said. “After a year, they change to a cheaper brand. I continue. I like quality coffee.”
Since last year, Park also offers Sook Chocolate, which she and her husband, Izzy Yanay, opened in Clifton last year.
Shelves at Sook Pastry in Ridgewood are lined with Sook Chocolate bars and other products.
At 47, Park said she’s glad she opened her patisserie in 2011 because it was so much work.
“For the first two years, I woke up at 3 in the morning, brought the chefs from New York here and worked with them,” she recalled. “At 2 o’clock they left. I continued working.”
Today, the hours are still long but better.
She’s never regretted her beginnings as a clothing designer in Korea. She couldn’t use that skill in the U.S., where people don’t dress as formally as they do in her homeland.
So she took up chocolates and pastry – also foreign to Koreans, who, she said, tend toward tea and fruit for dessert.
Sweets were one cultural difference still working in her favor.
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