Pichet Ong the Pastry Chef strolls down the streets of New York visiting his various ventures, both established and new. He’s been on a vacation in China for the last week and has only just returned. “I’m visiting all my restaurants. Checking up on my staff, being there for my people. Making sure that they know I’m still around and they should put on their best behavior,” he says with a laugh.
His journey to this point has been a unique one. Graduating Phi Beta Kappa in English Literature and Mathematics from Brandeis, he then received a Master’s in Architecture from University of California, Berkeley. He then pursued a different passion entirely. “I’m not classically trained to be a chef, but I grew up in a household where food is the focal point,” says Pichet. “It became my hobby as a child, and then it turned into a career.” Now entirely self taught, Pichet gives credit to mentors he’s had along the way such as culinary titans Jean Georges Vongerichten and Max Brenner.
Even before he made the decision to pursue his dreams of becoming a chef, he says there were early signs that food might one day be his calling. Citing his parents as huge supporters all along, he recalls that their openness and acceptance of his habits fueled his trajectory. “I never ate baby food as a child,” he says. “I was very open to trying anything new that children don’t usually eat: game meat and fish and things like that.” That adventurous palate has led him to be one of the most unique chefs on the scene today. As his blog says, he enjoys “mixing classical and modern flavors to create whimsical sweet and savory foods.” He prefers to cut back on the heavy use of sugar or butter in lieu for more fruit and flavor, and brings spice and asian notes to his desserts.
His adventurous nature has only grown as he embraces the success of his life and the possibilities still to come. “I live for adventure and trying everything new and spontaneity” he says. But Pichet knows he still has room to grow, and it’s that feeling which continues to fuel his success. “Every time I reach a goal, I set a new milestone for myself. I ask, what’s the next step? It’s not that I’m looking to gain more or make more money,” he says. “I have it inside of me, I’ve always had it, to never be content with what I have so that I can strive to be better, and the product can be better, and the world can be better.”
His restaurants now include P*ONG and Village Tart, dessert bars The Spot and Bubble Lounge, and his new bakery Batch. He’s written a cookbook called “The Sweet Spot” which has been lauded by The New York Times as “a standout and one of the most original dessert cookbooks in years” and was named by Gourmet as one of the 10 best cookbooks of 2008. In addition to his own establishments, Pichet consults on culinary ventures for clients worldwide.
To find out more about Pichet, visit his blog here.