Q&A conducted and edited by Alexander Gelfand
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 filmor 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