In the Kitchen with Lee Anne Wong

By Fabiana Santana

In the Kitchen with Lee Anne WongIf anyone knows a thing or two about the show business of food, it is Lee Anne Wong. She easily made fans on the first season of Top Chef, where she landed a spot in the coveted final four grouping. But Bravo wasn’t done with her after the season ended. She became the culinary producer for the show and then the chef consultant for Catherine Zeta Jones’ hit No Reservations. More than impressive stuff from a woman who first decided to study fashion design at NY’s famed Fashion Institute of Technology (just think what this overachiever would have done on Project Runway!)

You went from studying fashion at FIT to food at FCI (French Culinary Institute) how did that change come about?

I think there’s a natural connection with the artistic and creative expression with both fields. I starting cooking for my friends out of boredom while in college and went from there. The fact that I still get to use my hands to create something is the real thrill. I could not be where I am now had I not had that experience at FIT and in the fashion industry.

How did you hear about Top Chef and why did you decide to try out for it?

My manager at The French Culinary Institute had met the casting producers on the West Coast and recommended me for the show. I figured, “Why not?” and the rest is history.

Do you watch Top Chef?

Yes, I do have to watch every episode for my blog on Bravotv.com, though I got behind this past season as I was busy producing another show for Bravo.

How do you think the show has evolved from your season, the show’s first?

We (Season One contestants) use to joke around all the time about how in seasons to come, the contestants would have Evian as the sponsor and win trips to France, etc. Hilarious.  Really though the show evolves every season with new challenges and twists, as well as with the new batch of contestants we get to work with. I know from a culinary producer standpoint, I have finally come extremely close to being able to provide the chefs with the dream kitchen and pantry so that they have absolutely everything they need to be at their creative best, equipment and food wise.

What is your first food memory?

Distinctly? The time I was sleepwalking and poured an entire box of Rice Krispies into a colander and then milk…. Parents never let me forget that one. I think I was 5. That same year I made some foolhardy attempt at cookies using peanut butter, oatmeal, eggs, and sugar, all in the toaster oven. My Chinese grandmother caught me, laughed at me, and then proceeded to show me how to make sesame rice balls with red bean paste.

What does food mean to you?

Food is love. It feeds, it delights, and it creates so many memories. I am blessed to love what I do.

What is your advice for home chefs hoping to take their cooking to the next level?

Taste everything. Cook as often as you can. The reason why chefs are so good is because we do it all day every day. Avid home cooks should really consider taking amateur cooking courses. Most nonprofessional cooks more often than not have a few bad techniques in their repertoire. By taking a cooking course, such as La Technique, you learn the fundamentals of proper technique, which can be applied to any type of cuisine.

What is your favorite, eat at home, make for your self  meal?

I have three: a BLT, pasta carbonara, and a rare, bleeding ribeye.

Check out Lee Anne Wong’s delicious recipe for Lobster Mac and Cheese here.

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