She is from Korea, he is from Nepal. He is a football lover, she is a baking queen. This is an unique story of a couple, who traveled from different sides of the world to meet and fall in love with each other in one Prague's kitchen and ended up opening their first own authentic Korean bakery. The owners of Bakery60 Mari and Loki share their own experience of having a food business in Czech Republic, highlighting the K-pop fans and Instagrammable trends in the culinary world, and some delicious recipes of the renowned bestsellers, where corndogs, fluffy sandwiches, and breads are playing the main role.
Tell me about your beginnings, when did you get the idea to move from Korea to Prague and start your business here?
Mari: I was backpacking in Europe and visited many places, including Prague. I immediately fell in love with this city, I started to work a bit and think about opening my own bakery and maybe making my dream come true here in the Czech Republic. Since I was 12 and started baking, I knew that one day I would run my own bakery or become a chef, but baking was much closer to my heart. So when I came to Prague and saw this beautiful city, I decided to change my plans, stay here, start looking for a job, and make my dream come true. And that was the moment when I met Lokwan aka Loki.
Loki: I am from Nepal, and I came to Prague to study. I also started working as a chef in a Korean restaurant, that is where I met Mari, fell in love and started to elaborate on Mari's dream. Now it will be 5 years living in Prague.
The baking queen Mari, Photo: Vaclav Miskovsky
Was it a challenging adjustment for you?
Loki: In general, I would say YES, because living in a different country and learning the Czech language, both are still difficult disciplines for me. Mari is doing better because she knows more Czech. But the more you face your challenges, the stronger and more confident you feel. After 5 years now, I can say that Prague feels like home now.
Mari: Everyday is a challenge, I absolutely agree with Loki. For me it's whenever I am going to Korea, just to visit my family or friends, so whenever I come back to Prague it feels like home to me as well.
Do Czech people know and like the most famous Korean specialties?
Mari: Teenagers really love k-pop, movies, and drama. Many groups of young Czechs are also fans of BTS (popular K-pop boy band), and I feel like they really want to understand our culture, so they come to our bakery and try to speak Korean. And it makes me really happy.
What would you say is an absolute bestseller?
Mari: Definitely our corndog. Recently, I was enjoying a beer with my friends at Manifesto, and I heard someone excitedly shout out "OMG are you having a corndog?!”
The iconin Instagrammable Korean corndog, Photo: Vaclav Miskovsky
Are people afraid to try something new?
Mari: When customers first visit our bakery, we explain to them what our bread is all about and they're usually surprised, because we use for example red beans, which is quite unusual.
Loki: They are very hesitant at first, but they always come back again.
You are known as the first Korean-style bakery and café in Prague, your first place is located in Prague 6 and the second one just opened at Manifesto. Why did you choose Manifesto Andel?
Mari: We were playing with the idea to open a place this summer, and the CEO of Manifesto Martin Barry, who is our regular customer, asked us if we would consider applying for a space at Manifesto. I was here a couple of times with my friends, so I knew that the place offers a really good experience.
Loki: I would add that Manifesto is a very unique place, where customers can experiment with your products. We just started, so it means that a lot of work is ahead of us, but the management team here is a big support, they are amazing.
Let's get back to baking: are Korean bakeries very different from European ones? What would you say is the main difference?
Mari: Korean bread is a lot more fluffy and has combinations of both sweet and salty. Most of our bread and pastries are a mix of sweet and something else, so it's hard to exactly describe the taste. Czech bread is not sweet at all and is a lot more dry than Korean bread. We have had customers come to our bakery with the request to make our bread less sweet, but they simply never tried Korean bread before and don't know what to expect.
What product has the most potential to become a bestseller, but doesn't have the attention it deserves yet?
Loki : Definitely the corndog. I think a lot of people in Prague don’t know about corn dogs. Based on how many people live here, I would expect more people to be familiar with it.
Mari: I would say salt bread, because I consider corndogs a well established bestseller now at Manifesto. And why salt bread? At first, when I introduced it to people, they started to call it the korean style rohlík. It has butter and salt inside, and it's shaped like a typical rohlík. It's very crusty and crunchy, it's sold out everyday in Prague 6 and we hope to bring it to Manifesto soon.
Let's talk more about corndogs. Do people in Prague know what to expect? Why are they so special?
Mari: People like corndogs because they are cheesy and fried. Also, it's a part of Korean culture, so when people see this street food on Instagram, they want to experience it. The bread is hard on the outside but soft on the inside, so it’s a really good combination. The taste is different thanks to our special crust. Once they try it, they always come again.
Can you tell us: what's yoni toast and how do you prepare it?
Mari: It's one of Korea’s favorite foods! The soft sweet bread is filled with fluffy scrambled eggs, so when you take a bite, it feels like a cloud.
What's a Yuza ade and how do you prepare it?
Mari: Yuza ade is a lemonade made from yuzu; a mountain lemon, which can only be found in Korea or Japan. We cut the yuzu, cover it with sugar, ferment it for 10 days and then use it for our lemonades. It's a completely different experience.
Refreshing Yuza Ade is Mari's favourite, Photo: Vaclav Miskovsky
How do you prepare a red bean donut?
Mari: I would say that the preparation is kind of the same as a normal donut, but the filling is completely different thanks to the red beans. We cook them for 4-6 hours. They are half paste and half beans.
Who is your typical customer? What is the proportion of Korean people living in Prague, and local fans?
Loki: When we started, we had a lot of Korean customers, but over time we grew our Czech customer base. We also have many Vietnamese and Asian customers come in. We are really glad that Czechs are not afraid of experimenting.
Are pop-culture, movies and series promoting the popularity of Korean food? Did you notice a peak in new customers when the Squid Game was released, for example?
Mari: Yes, we actually did. When people find out we are a Korean bakery, they ask if we saw the Squid Game and if we are selling the Dalgona sweet, which appeared in the popular television series. We are considering selling it as a summer special :-)
Any thoughts on expansion?
Loki: We just opened our second bakery at Manifesto, so for now, we are happy where we are. But we would like to open another one in the future :)
How often do you change your menu?
Loki: Most of the items we offer are stable, but we occasionally release seasonal menus. Mari spends all her time making the cakes; she is the baking queen! Apart from cakes, we bake fresh bread and sweets every day.
What would you do if you didn't have Bakery60?
Mari: That is a really hard question, because ever since I was 12, I had just one goal in mind. If there was no cooking or baking, there would be nothing for me.
Loki: I have a passion for cooking, but I also have a lot of other hobbies like playing music.
What do you normally eat?
Loki: We eat Korean food most of the time. I used to cook a lot at home, like indian curry, sometimes italian cuisine, but now we got really busy with the business, so we hardly cook anymore. Now, we like to try different cafés to get more ideas for our business. Or we eat at Manifesto (smiling).
Why the name Bakery60?
Mari: Our main bread is called sik pang. Sik sounds like 6 and pang means 0, so that’s why it’s 6 and 0. But sik pang actually means milk bread, so it’s the same bread that we are making sandwiches, so it is a Korean translation.
Where would you like to be in 10 years? What's your dream?
Loki: I don't know, maybe I will be running a Bakery60 factory.:)))
Mari: After we build a factory, I have 2 other dreams. One is to have a korean style traditional house a little bit outside of Prague where we could open our bakery. However, my biggest dream is to live near the sea, because it's the one thing I miss here in the Czech Republic. But while still running bakeries :)
What do you normally do in your free time?
Mari: I really like to do karaoke. I found a restaurant that has a Korean owner, at Letná, and they have an underground Korean karaoke bar. I just love it!
Loki: I like to do more physical activities like football or basketball.
What's your favorite Czech food and drink?
Mari: Czech tatarák, vepřové koleno (pork knee) or smažák (fried cheese) are amazing! And with that? Beer for sure. I love it!
Loki: I like beef goulash with dumplings.
Bakery60 in Manifesto - Photo: Vaclav Miskovsky