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Heather Kim’s New Book on Revenge Baking



Heather Kim’s first cookbook is a funny, but helpful, guide for young adults to learn to cook fancy desserts, while healing a broken heart.

If it’s true that revenge is a dish best served cold, then why not add a scoop of vanilla ice cream to the Kiss My Molasses cookies or Every Day I Regret Us S’more brownies featured in Heather Kim’s new young adult cookbook of “passive aggressive desserts for your exes and enemies.” 

Kim, who proved her baking prowess at Hola Arepa and other venues, wrote the book with her preteen niece in mind. Unlike traditional wisdom, her premise is that revenge is best served warm and sweet. The spirited cookbook, titled “Sweet Revenge” and published by Switch Press out of North Mankato, Minnesota, is filled with solid recipes sporting punny titles and cool graphics and shout-outs where she shares  both cooking tips and relationship advice.  Kim’s personal feedback on the finished book is that there are way too many pictures of her in it.

In the book’s forward, Kim makes it clear that it’s not a self-help book on relationships, nor is it advocating poison apples a la Snow White mode. It is, however, a how-to cookbook. And even though the recipes have names like You’re Driving Me Bananas (aka Elvis cupcakes) and Nobody’s Butter Cup, the recipes have been tested on friends and family and would appeal to a young person with a broken heart and time on their hands on a Saturday night. Who wouldn’t start to heal after perfecting a batch of candied ramen or spooning Cool Ranch Doritos sugar on a pastry?

 “With pastry, Heather is an evil genius and always coming up with savory-sweet combos that sound like stoner food but she executes them with precision and a scientific approach,” says Christina Nguyen, chef/owner of Hai Hai and Hola Arepa. “Whether it’s brittling hot Cheetos or making a candied chicken skin to go on top of a donut with sweet mayo and strawberry preserves, she is always taking an original, never-boring approach to creating desserts.”

One of Heather Kim’s large-scale paintings

So the book’s not just fluff, but what’s with all the puns?

“I’m Korean-American and we sometimes take things literally,” she says, adding puns and slang is how she communicates with her sister’s preteen daughter, Emily. Her sister also raised Kim, which is why she and her niece have similar personalities, Kim points out. “We like puns” and sending each other encrypted notes, she says, acknowledging that it is a bit super dorky. 

But, of course, Kim is not remotely super dorky. At 40, she’s still the cool, hip auntie, who is even cooler because she’s a tattoo artist, working at an all-female tattoo shop in Minneapolis. 

In her workspace at Minneapolis Tattoo Shop on

Lyndale Avenue, she has several of her larger-than-life paintings displayed. Even if you don’t want a tattoo, it would be worth a visit just to scope out the goth-style art. 

“I was always an artist,” she says. “In high school, I used to ditch school and go to the art museums.” She took graduate classes in art and became a well-established pastry chef—both endeavors that require precision and creativity. As an added boon, she also has a background in science.

Tattooing became a natural extension of her art. “All the line chefs at Hola came to me as I learned,” she says. Some came for the piñata, others with the hope she could artistically cover up years-old tattoos that had seemed like a good idea at the time. Her specialty, she adds, is covering up the poor decisions we make at 18, and “turning them into something beautiful and meaningful.” She’s covered up ex-girlfriend’s initials and first names, a woman’s cutting scars from her youth and images that have been outgrown—or maybe inappropriate as we age.

Clients have progressed from choosing their tattoos from the examples on the wall to custom, she says. Tattoos have become a way to connect with one’s experiences. “People want those memories permanently,” she says, and they sometimes become a narrative for their lives.

a close-up of her baker’s tattoo.

Tattoos have also become community as well. Workers at Hola Arepa, she says, are into getting matching piñata tattoos in all different colors. Even the boss, Nguyen is considering getting one, Kim says, laughing. 

“She is 100 percent invested and obsessive about honing her craft which is why she excels at whatever she puts her mind to,” Nguyen says. “Her love for her work shows and this is why she gains a fast following no matter what she’s doing.”

Nguyen and Kim have become close friends, as has Kate Meier of BA Craftmade Aprons, who ironically is the mother of one of Kim’s chef clients. 

A custom version of Meier’s iconic aprons hangs in Kim’s studio and the two collaborated on tattooing a logo on Chef Thomas Boemer’s leather apron for his newest restaurant, In Bloom. Meier remembers Kim’s original excitement when she asked her to tattoo the logo on the leather apron for Boemer, a well-respected chef around town. That excitement “turned to anxiety once I actually brought it to her and she was terrified of ruining it,” Meier says. “Which shocked me, due to the fact that she puts permanent ink on people’s bodies for a living. And working on my apron intimidated her? I laughed about that one quite a bit.”

 

Heather Kim in her studio at Minneapolis Tattoo Shop framed by two of her original paintings. 

A good read

Kim’s cookbook, which was released January 2018, has a 4.23 star rating (out of 5) on Goodreads.com. Reviewers commented on the funny text, clever names for the desserts, colorful pictures, great photos and the fact that the recipes were really good ones, not just filler around the fun text. On Amazon’s book site, her cookbook has to compete with romance novels with the same name, but it’s only a brief scroll down until you find it. The Kindle version is $9.99 and it’s now in paperback for $13.36.

Part of having your book published by a publishing house, as opposed to self-published, is that you have resources to help schedule book signings and shows. Kim, who’s a voracious reader—“I read five to 10 books a week,” she says—had only written dessert menus before being approached by the editor of Capstone, which owns Switch Press. Apparently Kim’s punniness migrated to the copyright page, where a hot-pink note referred to Minnesota in the address as the “land of 10,000 bakes.”

She was invited to go to a New York book fair and was told to bring her “handler.” “I got my cousin to play my agent,” she says. One of the benefits of that gig was that they were invited to help themselves to the books being promoted. Kim laughs as she remembers the two of them picking up arms-full of books to take back to the hotel and then returning for more—several times. “Greed knows no boundaries when it comes to books,” she says. 

She’s already lined up an agent (who is not her cousin) for a second cookbook. This time the book won’t be aimed at young adults and will include her Korean-American roots, something that was not in her first book. She’s envisioning Korean-Midwest recipes. 

The winners in this new endeavor are her coworkers, her husband and friends, who are asked to sample some of the finished product and rate it on a scale of one to five. Her favorite comment from the first go-round was: “That’s weird, I wouldn’t have ordered it, but I’d buy it.” It’s all a matter of taste. 

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