Chef Janice Wong’s never-ending passion for culinary art has propelled her forward to test the limits of dessert making. The native Singaporean has learned from some of the world’s best chefs, including US luminaries Thomas Keller and Grant Achatz, virtuoso Spanish chocolatier Oriol Balaguer, and prodigious French pastry chef Pierre Hermé. An undisputed favourite among sweet-toothed Singaporeans, Janice Wong’s dessert restaurant 2am:dessertbar has redefined the dessert experience, pushing the boundaries between sweet and savoury, with carefully researched progressive dishes. Recently in November 2014 Janice Wong also launched her eponymous sweet concept, JANICE WONG. Chef Janice Wong has received worldwide recognition for her cutting-edge creations and is a regular on the global pop-up circuit—proof that 2am:dessertbar is more than just a sugar rush. She has recently been named Asia’s Best Pastry Chef; for the second year running by the prestigious San Pellegrino Asia’s 50 Best for 2013 & 2014. Please enjoy my interview with Chef Janice Wong.
How do you describe your occupation?
I describe myself as a Chef artist.
Talk us through a typical day for you…
What are you reading at the moment and what made you want to read it?
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. I wanted to have a read on culture and diversity that was meant for young adults. I have always tried to stay in touch with the young generation to understand the cultural changes.
Can you remember the first book you read by yourself?
I think the first book I read by myself was probably The BFG by Roald Dahl.
Are you a page folder or a bookmarker?
As a child, what were your favourite meals?
My favourite meals were Singapore curry, chicken noodles and sushi. They were flavourful and colourful.
If you could gift yourself books at age 16 – what would they be and why?
I would gift myself any inspirational leadership books, and a bunch of cookbooks and books on design.
Can you remember the first meal you cooked by yourself?
The first meal I ever made was a dessert, I think it was a tiramisu.
If you could invite 5 authors (dead or alive) to a dinner party – who would they be and why?
I would invite Simon Sinek because he inspires and will fill the room with so much positivity. Dan Lyons would be invited for his wit. Angie Thomas to learn of their success story from book to film. JK Rowling for pure imagination and Roald Dahl because it’d be every child’s dream.
What was the last book you purchased, and why did you buy it?
The last book I purchased was Be Obsessed Or Be Average by Grant Cardone, and I bought it because I thought the title was interesting.
What is your favourite thing about reading?
Listening to someone else’s voice.
What’s the best book you’ve read in the last 6 months?
The best book I’ve read recently is Start With Why by Simon Sinek. As it gets busier day by day sometimes you forget about the WHYs and this book gives you a different perspective.
I’d insert myself into Big Magic by Elizabeth Gibert, because of its reflection on creativity.
What two pieces of advice would you give to someone aspiring for a career in food?
I’d give my advice in three words: perseverance with passion.
What is the book that you feel has had the single biggest impact on your life? What impact did it have?
The book that has had the biggest impact on my life is Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life by Justine Picardie for both inspiration and aspiration. It was so natural that when I read the biography I felt like I could connect with her. The gender disparity then and now in our disciplines. Creating a brand of her own after her name. Her struggles and wins were all stories and emotions I could connect with.
If you could only own three cookbooks, which would you pick and why?
Are there any books you haven’t mentioned that you feel would make your reading list?
I would also have to include Good to Great by Jim Collins. It’s always good to have a different perspective and as a director of a company, I am always seeking improvements.
If you weren’t in food, what do you think you’d be doing?
Architecture, because it’s my second passion.
Which book sat on your shelf are you most excited about reading next and why?
I’m excited to read Find your Why by Simon Sinek.