New York native Leah Cohen is no stranger to good food. Growing up as a half Filipina and half Russian-Romanian Jew, her childhood culinary background was eclectic to say the least. Cohen’s heritage, plus the pulsing New York City culinary scene, inspired her to pursue the culinary arts. To jumpstart her ambitions, she attended the Culinary Institute of America before working for Chef David Burke at Park Avenue Café. Burke inspired Cohen to attend Italy’s Slow Food program, which she followed with an additional year in Sicily at Michelin-starred La Madia.
Returning to New York City, Cohen began working in Chef Daniel Humm’s kitchen at Eleven Madison Park, where she was quickly promoted to tournant. In 2008, Cohen earned a sous chef position at Centro Vinoteca and eventually took on the chef de cuisine role after competing on season 5 of Bravo’s “Top Chef.”
After her departure from the show, Cohen spent time traveling and staging in Southeast Asia, working at Bo Innovations in Hong Kong and BoLan and David Thompson’s Nam in Bangkok. Craving firsthand knowledge, Cohen then devoted a year to traveling across the Phillipines and Thailand, finding restaurants with dishes she admired and learning the techniques and flavors from the cooks themselves.
Cohen draws inspiration from this worldly knowledge and translates it on the plate at Lower East Side restaurant, Pig and Khao, her first solo venture and the new and exciting center of Southeast Asian food in New York City. In 2013, Cohen was named 2013 StarChefs.com Rising Star Chef.