Michelin Star Revelation 2 minutes 06 October 2022

Kelly Nam, MICHELIN Guide NY 2022 Pastry Chef of the Year

One MICHELIN Star Joomak Banjum pastry chef Kelly Nam on nostalgic desserts and finding inspiration at the farmers' market

New York City Ed's Pick dessert Special Awards pastry

Congratulations to Kelly Nam, MICHELIN Guide New York 2022 Pastry Chef of the Year winner, presented in partnership with Blue Bottle! At One Star Joomak Banjum, chefs Jiho Kim and pastry maven Kelly Nam merge global flavors. Nam was formerly the pastry chef at Electric Lemon and One Star Frenchie in Paris. She is a partner at Joomak Banjum, where they offer the Studio Menu with an increased pastry focus; guests are seated at the pastry counter, where both skill and originality are on full display with elaborate desserts like red bean semifreddo or Sichuan peppercorn ice cream. As part of the 2022 MICHELIN Guide New York Star Revelation, we chatted with chef Nam about her first cookbook, nostalgic desserts, and baking with the seasons.


Joomak Banjum's Green Goddess: green pea cremeux, green apple, green grapes, kale sponge cake, lime leaf sable and sorrel frozen yogurt. © Signe Birck/Joomak Banjum
Joomak Banjum's Green Goddess: green pea cremeux, green apple, green grapes, kale sponge cake, lime leaf sable and sorrel frozen yogurt. © Signe Birck/Joomak Banjum

What sparked your interest in pastry?
I always enjoyed baking and it was one of the few things I did and was able to forget about everything else and fully immerse myself in it. As I was choosing my career, I realized I didn't want to work in a 5x5 cubicle in an office but wanted something more practical/hands on. My theory was that all jobs are tough, and I might as well do something that I enjoy doing.

Did you bake when you were growing up?
My mom bought me this cookbook when I was in preschool called My First Cookbook. I grew up in California where summers were too hot to bake at home so, as soon as fall hit, I'd ask my mom if we could bake again. I also used to sell cookies at our church's bake sale in high school.

What was your favorite dessert when you were growing up vs now?
I didn't grow up eating a ton of desserts, but I always loved Sara Lee pound cake, pumpkin and pecan pies during fall, and Jello during summer time, White chocolate macadamia nut is my go-to cookie, and I now love any citrusy desserts or anything with a meringue.




Joomak Banjum's lemon curd glazed with strawberry, market berries, voatsiperifery pepper sable, pop rocks and rosé sorbet © Signe Birck/Joomak Banjum
Joomak Banjum's lemon curd glazed with strawberry, market berries, voatsiperifery pepper sable, pop rocks and rosé sorbet © Signe Birck/Joomak Banjum

How do you decide what to put on the menu?
Sometimes I start with the flavor profile I want to try and build a form around it, and sometimes it's the opposite, where I have a special mold or design I want to try out and build a flavor profile to go with it. I even revolve my desserts around color profiles I see. The process for me is very fluid. Everything and anything inspires me and I am constantly taking notes for the next new dessert.

How do you utilize seasonal ingredients?
I go to the market every week to see what works with all the notes I've been taking and to get inspiration. It's the best place to see and understand what's coming our way and how the weather has been affecting produce. I've always worked at restaurants where seasonality was important, so incorporating seasonal ingredients is a natural part of me now. I also believe that seasonality comes not only from actual seasonal ingredients but also from nostalgia. For my chocolate desserts specifically, I love doing popcorn or s'mores for summertime because it reminds me of going to movie theaters, carnivals, and camping. For wintertime, I love doing hot-chocolate-inspired desserts. I like my desserts to be fun, a little daring, and slightly mind-boggling.

Do you bake at home, or do you leave work at work?
I try to leave work at work; at least the physical cooking part. I rarely bake at home unless it's a special occasion, although my apartment is fully equipped as a pandemic remnant.



“I like my desserts to be fun, a little daring, and slightly mind-boggling.”
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Chef Kelly Nam at work
© Nathan Ma/Joomak Banjum

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Presented in partnership with Blue Bottle

Hero image: Joomak Banjum executive pastry chef/partner Kelly Nam
© Nathan Ma/Joomak Banjum

Michelin Star Revelation

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