From the Chef’s Table to Skincare: Renowned Chef Jeong Kwan and Leverden Founder Soyoung Cho cook with Korean hero ingredient Bamboo Salt
Uncovering the ancient potential of Bamboo Salt and its journey from the temple kitchen to the realm of self-care.
By Hannah Katherine, WWD Contributer | September 4, 2023
Chunjinam Hermitage, Baegyangsa Temple, South Korea - Nestled amidst the lush mountains of South Korea, within the tranquil surroundings of the historic Chunjinam Hermitage, you’ll find much more than rhythmic chants, ancient trees, and the occasional outside visitor. It is also home to Buddhist nun and renowned Chef Jeong Kwan, celebrated for her soulful approach to cooking showcased in "Chef's Table" Season 3.
On August 2, 2023, Chef Kwan prepared a special lunch date. Beyond the temple garden’s graceful wooden pavilion, a simple yet elegant table awaited Soyoung Cho, visionary founder of Leverden, a new spiritual skincare brand introducing products inspired by traditional wisdom & cultural wellness practices from around the world.
This meeting of culinary and cosmetic minds was not Soyoung’s first - travel in search of healing is a key component in Leverden’s product development - and set the stage for a day of exploration into the world of Bamboo Salt - a treasured ingredient deeply rooted in Korean culture and hailed for its diverse culinary and skincare applications.
Chef Kwan’s cooking has become world-famous for reflecting Zen Buddhist principles, emphasizing mindfulness and an intrinsic connection with nature's gifts. Today, she would infuse her dishes with the magic of Bamboo Salt, while learning from the skincare pioneer about its full potential when used topically.
Soyoung Cho - left, and Chef Jeong Kwan - right, first sit for tea, a traditional Korean welcome.
The day began with Chef Jeong Kwan showcasing Bamboo Salt's unique flavor-enhancing properties in a medley of traditional Korean dishes. From delicately seasoned kimchi to hearty stews, each dish exhibited Bamboo Salt's ability to elevate flavors to an entirely new level.
From Left to Right: aged white cabbage, bamboo salt in the preparation of white kimchi, and Chef Kwan discussing seasoning technique over the temple's everpresent supply of bamboo salt
As the dishes simmered, Leverden's founder, a skincare visionary, explained the meticulous process of harvesting Bamboo Salt (often roasted and then aged for years within stalks) and its vital role in the brand's skincare formulations. "Bamboo salt is more than just an ingredient; it is a cultural treasure with remarkable skincare benefits," the founder remarked. "Our goal is to incorporate this traditional element into modern skincare while preserving its essence."
She went onto explain its key benefits for beauty consumers:
Rich in minerals - the roasting process infuses the salt with essential minerals like Calcium, Potassium, and Magnesium, which play a crucial role in maintaining skin health & cellular vitality, as well as preventing free radical damage. The regular use of the salt in skincare may reduce the appearance of wrinkles and age spots.
Antibacterial & antimicrobial - the high temperatures during roasting impart these properties, which help cleanse skin deeply and treat acne-prone and sensitive skin.
Exfoliation & detoxification - the salt’s fine texture imparts a subtle texture to skincare, helping remove dead skin, unclog pores, and promote a clearer, more radiant complexion while drawing out impurities and toxins.
Bamboo Salt is the signature skincare ingredient in our Bamboo Forest collection.
Following the cooking demonstration, Chef Kwan and Soyoung engaged in a spirited discussion about the holistic properties of bamboo salt, culminating in a hands-on skincare workshop. Chef Jeong Kwan, ever-curious and open to new experiences, eagerly participated in receiving a signature Leverden Bamboo Salt hand treatment, featuring the Amethyst Ki Bath Soak from Leverden’s Bamboo Forest Bathing Collection. With laughter echoing through the room, the two pioneers demonstrated a beautiful bond between culinary art and skincare science.
Reflecting on the day's events, Chef Jeong Kwan expressed her admiration for the collaboration. "Cooking with bamboo salt has been a revelation. Its rich history and profound cultural significance add a meaningful dimension to my culinary creations. Partnering with Leverden has opened my eyes to the harmonious relationship between food and beauty."
Leverden's founder echoed the sentiment, adding, "Chef Jeong Kwan's philosophy aligns perfectly with our brand's vision. We share a deep respect for tradition, and this meeting has reaffirmed our commitment to exploring the untapped potential of bamboo salt in skincare, as well as the world of ancient traditions available to us as inspiration sources in our future product lines."
Chef Kwan and Soyoung walk the temple grounds.
Leverden’s next collection takes us to the bush of Namibia, and is expected to release online in late August. Follow their journey on instagram at @leverdenofficial (shop: leverden.co).