Doron Wong Explores a New Frontier of Yunnan Cuisine
Like many of his fellow chefs, Boston native Doron Wong got his restaurant start via a menial job: A 14-year-old aching for something to do, he picked up a position answering phones at a pizza place. But because he was a curious kid, he found himself gravitating toward the back of the house, where he'd ask the kitchen staff to teach him how to do things. "Before I knew it, I was in the kitchen," he says. "I was so young, I couldn't even touch the slicer."
By the time he graduated from high school, that he'd continue on to culinary school was a foregone conclusion, and he enrolled immediately. He landed formidable post-graduation gigs, too, and he spent some time behind the burners at David Burke's Park Avenue Cafe and Ken Oringer's Clio. But he felt drawn to exploring his mother's heritage, and so he packed his knives and set out for Hong Kong to get acquainted with Asian technique. He moved around a bit on that continent, spending some time in Singapore, as well.
He returned to the States 15 years ago, and, he says, he "began pushing hard." He was intent on doing Asian cuisine, and his resume includes stops at Ginger & Spice, Delicatessen, Shang, and Toy.
Some time back, Yunnan Kitchen (79 Clinton Street, 212-253-2527) owner Erika Chou ran into Wong on the subway, and after the pair spent a lot of time together talking food, she brought him on board in her restaurant at the beginning of the year to tackle a menu from Yunnan, a region of China that abuts Tibet, Vietnam, Laos, and Burma, and an area Wong had no experience working in before this job.
In this interview, the chef talks about taking on a new cuisine, the evolution of the New York dining scene, and lessons learned over his career, and Chou weighs in on Yunnan food and the restaurant's philosophy.