Hannah Lee might possibly be one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met — which is completely fitting considering that she makes some of my favorite sweet treats in Richmond. Lee, a VCU alum, jokes she’s never actually had to use her psychology degree since graduating nearly 10 years ago. Instead of becoming a nurse or a teacher, she’s now the owner and baker behind Däl-kohm, a small-batch bakery based right here in Richmond.
Lee’s love of cooking comes from her family, more specifically her mother and grandmother. After all, it was her grandmother that taught her to never send anyone away empty handed. “I think one of the big things that drives me is seeing what food can do for people,” explains Lee. “Food crosses a lot of language barriers and there’s just something universal about it.”
Lee is extremely modest about her accomplishments and past work, but if you prod her enough she’ll happily tell you about her experiences in the restaurant industry. Here’s the abbreviated version.
She went to the Culinary Institute of America shortly after graduating from VCU and spent time learning the ins and outs of the restaurant industry in New York City before making her way to Washington D.C. She’s worked with Candice Kumai (you might recognize her from Top Chef), was a pastry cook at Mario Batali’s restaurant, Esca and a pastry sous chef at Birch and Barley in D.C — and this is the condensed list, ask her to rattle off the full list the next time you see her.
Now she spends her days in Richmond and Däl-Kohm’s baked goods can currently be found every Saturday at South of the James farmers’ market and wholesale at Stock Provisions in the Fan. “I used to work at a cupcake shop as one of my first jobs in New York, and the power that a cupcake has on someone’s day amazed me,” said Lee. “When you watch someone really enjoying something that you made, that’s such a motivator and it makes you want to do it again and again. That’s what pushed me to do this as a career instead of just a hobby.”
What to expect at Däl-Kohm
Everything at Däl-Kohm is extremely fresh, as in baked in the last 12 hours fresh. For SOTJ on Saturdays, Lee spends her Friday evening/early hours of Saturday morning baking and packaging everything by hand. She uses high-quality local ingredients whenever possible, one common ingredient in many of her items is Old Church Creamery’s milk.
Many of the baked goods at Däl-Kohm are influenced by the fresh produce that is available during the summer and fall seasons. Lee will often use fruits and flowers that she finds while selling at the market in her recipes. Each weekend at Lee’s booth you’ll find a rotating selection of cookies, breads (zucchini bread and savory focaccia breads), miniature pies and caramels.
My go-to pick is the blueberry cookies, which are soft, and sort of remind me of blueberry pancakes. A close second are the tea cookies — mainly because they remind me of the cookies my grandmother used to make us for Christmas. On my latest visit, I picked up the tomato basil focaccia which went perfectly with a fried egg for breakfast. Honestly, you cannot go wrong and if you’re anything like me you’ll have to practice major self-control to not just buy one of everything.
In her second year at South of the James, you’ll find her being a little more adventurous with the flavor profiles she uses in her baking, often inserting a hint of her Korean heritage into her treats, like the miso caramels. Lee is focusing on continuing to provide high-quality goods to her customers at the farmers’ market and exploring new options for wholesaling. The heat and humidity at the farmers’ market limits the kinds of desserts she can sell each Saturday but for now you can check out Stock Provisions for a few additional items like pies, cinnamon rolls and cookie sandwiches. She also does custom orders through her website (including cakes, tarts and pies), but appreciates at least one week’s notice for these orders and two weeks for large orders. Oh and all you brides out there, Lee can do wedding cakes too!
I’m excited to see what the future holds for Däl-Kohm, whether that’s more retail availability or even her own storefront. Grab a cookie or two the next time you’re at South of the James and let me know what flavor is your favorite!