SUMMIT, NJ – Cap’n Crunch, Rice Krispies and fruit gummies do not exactly conjure up thoughts of sophisticated savories. Nevertheless, these simple childhood staples serve as inspiration for celebrated New York pastry chef Pichet Ong, who will hold a cheesecake demonstration at the Third Annual Summit Wine and Food Festival this September.
“I combine fond flavors from childhood with modern cooking to create unique dishes,” Ong says. A self-proclaimed sweet tooth, as a child Ong enjoyed sugary cereals from the U.S. and fruit jellies from Switzerland.
Ong’s lunchbox also reflected his diverse upbringing. “Since I grew up in Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong, I was exposed to different flavor profiles from a very young age. I continue to draw inspiration from those foods,” he said.
An adventurous eater, some of Ong’s favorite foods were game meats like squab and offal and vegetables that youngsters often dislike, such as beets and pickles.
It was this sense of culinary curiosity that led Ong to cooking. “Cooking is a hobby that turned into a career for me,” he said. “I grew up with a mom and aunt who loved to cook.” He was always eager to try something new.
Ong is a self-taught chef who has worked with Jean Georges Vongerichten and Max Brenner. His formal education, however, is as wide-ranging as his taste buds. He holds degrees in English Literature and Mathematics from Brandeis University and a Master’s in Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley.
In 2002, Ong was named Starchefs.com's "Rising Star" and was featured in the prestigious "The Chef" column of The New York Times for four weeks. He has also been named one of the Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America by Pastry Arts & Design and Chocolatier and was selected as a "Pastry Provocateur" by Food & Wine.
His desserts, including those from Spice Market, RM, and 66, have garnered numerous "Best of" awards. Ong is a multiple nominee for the James Beard Award in several national categories.
Ong’s work frequently appears in Bon Appétit, Food Arts, The New Yorker, Elle, New York Magazine, Time Out, People, Vogue, Condé Nast Traveler, Out, Harper's Bazaar, W, and O, The Oprah Magazine. He has been on Iron Chef America, Martha Stewart Live, CBS News, Emeril's Live, and LX TV.
His cookbook, The Sweet Spot, has been hailed by The New York Times as "a standout and one of the most original dessert cookbooks in years." It received a red-starred review in Publisher's Weekly, a nomination for the World Gourmand book award, and was recently named one of the 10 best cookbooks of 2008 by Gourmet. In the last two years, his recipes were featured in 20 different cookbooks.
Ong lives in New York and consults on culinary projects worldwide. His iconic restaurants include P*ONG, Village Tart dessert bar, The Spot, Bubble Lounge the bakery Batch, and, most recently, Qui Bangkok Eatery. His creations can be found worldwide, from New York to Sydney, Istanbul to Beijing, Tokyo to New Orleans.
Ong will bring his sweet-toothed skill set to Summit on Saturday September 10. His 4:00 p.m. Chef’s Demonstration at the Morris Room in the Grand Summit Hotel will feature his cheesecake, popular in Manhattan restaurants Coppelia and La Esquina, where he often consults and adds fantastic menu items. He will also cook at the 7:00 p.m. Gala Dinner in The Grand Ballroom, as he did for the 2010 Summit Wine and Food event.
Ong uses crème mexicano and walnut cookie crust in his trendy cheesecakes. “I have two different types of cheesecakes and have not yet decided which one I will prepare—it’s a surprise!” he said.