JIN PATISSERIE | Los Angeles
The journey from Singapore to Venice, California for pastry
chef Kristy Choo has been flavored with local herbs, Asian spices,
and French chocolates and teas. After two careers, the world-class,
award-winning chocolatière is still savoring the journey.
Choo was born in Singapore into a Chinese family who operates a
food store retailing regional Chinese fare. It was her early experiences
as a child that allowed her to develop a taste for good food. After
working for a luxury retail boutique, her second career as a flight
attendant for ANA Airlines led her to international destinations,
exposing her to the flavors and concepts of haute cuisine.
Her travels fueled her curiosity about international cuisine. She
decided to become a chef, enrolling at the California Culinary Academy
in San Francisco, where her affinity for desserts became apparent.
She returned to Singapore and worked in the pastry department at
the prestigious Raffles Hotel, where she had the privilege of occasionally
working alongside visiting culinary super-chefs Joel Robuchon and
Alain Ducasse and their team of patissiers and chocolatiers. After
a couple of years at Raffles, she briefly worked at the French restaurant
Les Amis, then took off for a couple of months to explore
London, England on her own to see what else was happening in the
In early 2002, a friend unexpectedly asked Choo to join the Singapore’s
national team for the prestigious international “Food &
Hotel Asia” competition in April that year. Not considering
herself a master chocolatière, she decided to test her abilities
and rose to meet the challenge of competing against formidable European
and Asian opponents. For this competition, she trained every day
for a month and a half, often 14 hours a day or more, under the
guidance of Team Manager and Executive Pastry Chef Kenny Kong of
Singapore’s Swissôtel, to master the learning curve,
as well as invent truly original recipes. Her hard work paid off,
and her team defeated the exalted Swiss and German chocolatiers
in the competitive “Petit Fours” category. This triumph
led to her being selected for the Culinary World Cup held in Luxembourg
in November 2002, where she again competed against other international
The confidence-building experience led her to realize her abilities
as a master chocolatière and that she could, indeed, open
her own pastry business, which she had been quietly contemplating
while working for others. Her husband Kim Oh moved his business
to Los Angeles and the couple moved there in late 2002. After months
of research, they found the perfect location for Jin Patisserie,
a pastry boutique and Asian-inspired tea garden, located on a very
chic stretch of Venice’s Abbot Kinney Blvd. Choo auspiciously
chose the name “Jin,” which is a modified version of
Choo’s middle name (“Gyan”). In Mandarin, “Jin”
also means “gold” and refers to four Chinese dynasties.
Like every artist, Choo is her own critic, holding herself to a
standard of outdoing herself with innovation, artistry, and refinery.
Choo is still winning awards. Jin Patisserie was chosen
“Best of LA” in 2004 by Los Angeles Magazine.
She brings her sense of adventure to her cuisine by using the finest
ingredients from around the world and infusing their unique flavors
to her creations. Elevating chocolates from a craft into an edible
art form has been one sweet journey.
AB: What restaurants
that you have worked in as a pastry chef have been the most influential?
KC: Raffles Hotel. I had just
graduated from school and that was my training ground. I worked
with the best visiting chefs from all over the world for one week
at a time.
AB: How was your Baking and
Pastry training at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco?
KC: I really liked it. There
was a lot of hands-on training. It was a very good school. I would
recommend culinary school, but I think that those interested in
pursuing this career should first work in a kitchen before going
to school, which will give you a better idea of the real working
environment in a professional kitchen. At least you would know what
AB: Have you won any awards?
KC: Hotel Food Asia and the
Culinary World Cup – for chocolate.
AB: What pastry or kitchen
tools can’t you live without?
KC: My palate knife. I use
it to level out my mousse, temper my chocolate on a tabletop and
make chocolate garnishes.
AB: What are your favorite
KC: Chocolate. I like 72 percent
bitter chocolate because it has a very good flavor.
AB: What are your top three
tips for dessert success?
KC: Texture, flavor combinations
AB: Who are your mentors/pastry
KC: Chef Kenny Kong from the
Raffles Hotel. He guided me throughout my competition and brought
me to a different level that I never thought I could get to. And
Chef Pang of Canele inspired me with his artistic talent.
AB: What are your favorite
KC: My favorite dessert to
eat is very simple- a warm pear tart. My favorite desserts to make
are chocolate desserts.
AB: What trends do you see
emerging in pastry arts?
KC: Simplicity and work that
is very clean in presentation and complex in flavor, with texture
as well. I see lots of use of Asian ingredients combined with a
Western style and technique.
AB: Where do you see yourself
in 5 to 10 years?
KC: I would like to establish
a few boutiques that will showcase my passion in the art of pastry.