StarChefs: What is your philosophy on dessert?
Pichet Ong: Be adventurous with flavor, but clean and simple.
SC: What restaurants have you worked in as a pastry chef?
PO: Cello, RM, La Folie, Patroon.
SC: Where did you train/what school did you attend?
PO: In Berkeley. Chez Panisse—that’s where I discovered cooking. I spent five years as a line cook at Sono, Tabla, Olives in Boston and Jean Georges. There were 13 years of hopping around the globe before realizing pastry was my passion.
SC: What pastry or kitchen tools can’t you live without? Why?
PO: Excluding my hands, a KitchenAid Mixer and spatulas.
SC: What are your favorite ingredients?
PO: I’m a big fan of fruits. Sugar. Apples. Rose petals and chocolate. Durian.
SC: What are three tips for dessert success?
PO: Bloom aromatics in oil and apply that to pastry; put spices with fat. Zest directly onto the product. Always cook from intuition; go by what feels and tastes right versus a recipe.
SC: Who are your mentors/pastry heroes?
PO: Sherry Yard, Emily Luchetti, Claudia Fleming, Bill Yosses.
SC: Where are your favorite desserts?
PO: The desserts at wd~50. Vicki Wells’ desserts. Bill Yosses at Joseph’s Citarella.
SC: In an article you made a point about pastry chefs being the unsung heroes of restaurants these days. Why do you think that is? How can we bring pastry to the forefront again?
PO: Chefs and restaurant owners need to recognize more what pastry can do for a restaurant. Pastry chefs can do crazy things. Pastry chefs are to restaurants what the actress is to a movie.