Tastemakers: Janice Wong, Asia’s best pastry chef

28 July 2016

Two-time winner of Asia’s Best Pastry Chef category in the San Pellegrino Asia’s 50 Best, Janice Wong is known for her precision and creativity in putting together some of the most unimaginable desserts.

Having opened her first restaurant at the age of 24, the now 33-year-old Singaporean has since opened Cobo House by 2am:dessertbar, a casual fine dining restaurant, in Hong Kong’s Kennedy town earlier this March. April also saw Janice open a dessert bar in Tokyo in Newoman shopping mall.

We ask the Singaporean tastemaker about the her management style, creative satisfaction and her first dessert memory.

Being in a male dominated industry, were there moments where you felt restricted as a woman? 

I believe there were moments of intimidation in the beginning of my career where I really felt the disparity of gender in a male dominated industry. The challenges in the beginning were more of staff management, earning the respect of male chefs in your own kitchen through your focus and philosophy.

What do you think are some of the changes, within the industry and within an individual, that need to happen for more women to rise in the ranks in the culinary scene to take on more senior roles? 

The scene has evolved in the past 10 years and more women are recognised for their talent and given the opportunity and platform to perform. With society giving equal opportunities to women, we are able to express and work towards our dreams and goals without as much obstacles in the past. The media focus on women and support groups have also helped women to excel.

How would you describe your management style in the kitchen?

Spontaneous and encouraging. Focused and efficient

Perfection is a self-inflicted expectation. 

janice wong 2am dessert bar 1

When was the last time you doubted yourself? How do you overcome those moments of doubt? 

I experiment all the time, hence the doubt of action is always present. However, I never doubt that I can achieve goals as I always tell myself, perfection is unattainable, it is all about expectations.

As someone described as a perfectionist, how do you know when to let go and to stop tweaking?

You just have to know when to draw the line. Perfection is a self-inflicted expectation. Hence, sometimes to achieve the best you have to know when to stop and move on to other things.

Are you creatively satisfied?

Never. I create almost every day. Whether it’s for my art discipline, or my discipline as a chef and a patissier.

What was your first memory of tucking into a dessert? 

Choux puff in Tokyo, Japan. My dad loves eating choux puffs and creamed cakes and I will follow him for these experiences.

janice wong 2am dessert bar

What’s the one raw ingredient that you’re currently obsessed about?

Sugar. I am trying to expand it, float it and make it bounce

Having to work long hours with only 25 day-offs in a year, how do you stay healthy mentally and physically? 

This year is one of my healthiest years thus far where I finally have enough rest and going at a pace I’m comfortable with. On the contrary to having three restaurant openings this year, I feel more at rest. On my days off I go for a yoga practice. When I’m overseas I try to visit museums and art galleries for inspiration.

Having learned from the likes of Oriole Balaguer and Pierre Hermé, who are some of your best mentors to date? And what do you think are the key traits that you have learned from them?  

My best mentors would be my father, Will Goldfarb and Alex Stupak. From my mentors, I learned to have the confidence and to dare to fail — a trait I definitely pass on as well. Chefs I have learned from in the United states have celebrated creativity by constantly pushing the boundaries and their own limits.

Catch more of Janice in Tastemakers Singapore 2016. Premieres 7 August 2016, Sunday, 10:30PM MY/SIN/HK

Interview by Dee May

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