Kitchen Cred

Q&A conducted and edited by Alexander Gelfand
Hue Magazine
Spring 2010

Most people know Lee Anne Wong from her appearances on Bravo's Top Chef. They probably don't know that she is also a culinary producer and consultant for television and film—or that she first earned a degree in fashion design from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), and once slaved over a sewing machine in a Brooklyn apartment.

So what came between FIT and Top Chef?

I lived in Brooklyn with a Bernina machine freelancing as a seamstress, and I worked as a waitress and bartender. It was tough. One New Year's I was crashing with friends and watching a lot of Food Network, and I made a big dinner: pasta carbonara and Cornish game hens. They were like, "You should be a cook!" I enrolled at the French Culinary Institute a month later.

You were a culinary producer for Top Chef and a consultant for the Catherine Zeta-Jones film, No Reservations. Is it true that the hot lights used in filming melt food?

For No Reservations, I helped develop prop food that I wouldn't recommend anyone eat. The problem with Top Chef was that everything had to be edible. For the season finale in Puerto Rico, we had to bring out 50-pound trays of raw meat and seafood in 95-degree heat. We had to keep changing the ice, and the fly situation was gnarly. I was covered in meat juice, and when I walked off camera, I looked like Pig Pen.

Is cooking a craft, or an art?

Most chefs will say they are not artists, they're tradespeople. But my art background definitely plays into how I look at a plate. It's all about texture and shape and color. You eat with your eyes first.

Are there any ingredients you hate?

Canned tuna fish. In first grade a classmate poured chocolate milk on his tuna salad and ate it. I gagged in my mouth. He ruined canned tuna fish for me forever.

What's cooking these days?

I'm consulting on a few projects, and hope to have a business plan for my own restaurant by early summer. I also spend a lot of time at The Chef's Garden, a family-owned farm in Ohio. They raise money for Veggie U, which teaches children how to grow food. I've been auctioned off for a few $10,000 dinners.

Aren't you also working on a book called Sexy Food?

That's my homage to my former life at FIT. It's going to be a combination of fashion, food, and art, all rolled up into one glorious book.

Copyright ©2010 Alexander Gelfand

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