Born in Houston, Texas, Joanne Chang received her B.A. in Applied Mathematics and Economics at Harvard College. She spent two years as a management consultant after graduation, but it was her passion for food that prompted her to leave consulting for the food industry. Born in Houston, Texas, Joanne Chang received her B.A. in Applied Mathematics and Economics at Harvard College. She spent two years as a management consultant after graduation, but it was her passion for food that prompted her to leave consulting for the food industry. She landed her first food job as a line cook at Biba, an upscale restaurant in Boston, and later moved on to Bentonwood Bakery (Newton, MA) to hone her baking skills and then to Rialto (Cambridge, MA) where she gained experience in menu planning and general management. Then in 1997, she found herself at one of New York’s highly acclaimed French restaurants, Payard Patisserie & Bistro, further advancing her pastry techniques. She returned to Boston as pastry chef for Mistral, meanwhile working out plans for her very own bakery. Now, she is the proud owner of two successful Flour Bakery & CafÃ©s and one new Chinese eatery, Myers + Chang, which opened in September of this year in Boston.
The first Flour opened its doors in 2000 and its great popularity led to the launch of the second one 7 years later. The mission behind Flour is very straightforward: Offering delicious, simplistic foods bringing loads of pleasure to diners. Prepared in-house by the kitchen staff, you’ll find everything from chocolate truffle tarts to oven-baked asparagus and potato tortes.
Also on the menus and sold out on most mornings at the Flour bakeries are Joanne’s Sticky Buns: brioche lathered in gooey caramel and generously topped with toasted pecans and cinnamon. These mouthwatering delights crowned Joanne as the winner of the bun competition against celebrity chef Bobby Flay on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. The episode aired on the Food Network in July.
In addition to running her bakeries and restaurants, Joanne also teaches classes at local cooking schools and advises pastry chefs within her bakeries. Outside of the kitchen, she writes pastry articles and reviews cookbooks for Fine Cooking magazine.
Engaged to Christopher Myers, half owner of Myers + Chang, Joanne enjoys running and has competed in every Boston Marathon since 1991.
Here’s more from the accomplished pastry-chef and restaurateur:
ASIANCE: What made you switch from management consulting to the food industry? Was it more than just for the love for food? Did you always have an interest in cooking and baking as a child?
Joanne: I have always loved food and was eager to try something new in my professional career. I didn’t feel like going to business school or continuing to consult and I felt that I was young enough and relatively responsibility-free that I could make the jump-however temporary-into something that I’d always loved. I used to cook and bake all of the time as a child.
ASIANCE: Could you tell us more about Myers + Chang? What prompted you to come up with this new restaurant? What are some of the items on the menu?
Joanne: It’s a casual fun and hip Chinese eatery with Thai, Malaysian, Korean, and other Asian influences. [Chris and I] wanted to create a restaurant that featured foods I’d grown up with, but in a fun and funky setting that would attract more diners than Chinatown does. We have a rocking sound system, pink barstools, open kitchen and amazing food. Some items are Mama Chang’s Pork and Chive Dumplings, Spicy Silky Tofu with Kimchee and Peppered Pork, Hakka Eggplant, Edamame and Celery Salad with Candied Lemon and Sesame, Thai Ginger Chicken Salad with Cucumber and Basil.
ASIANCE: Do you ever cook at home? How often do you come up with new recipes? Do you still come up with recipes for your Flour bakeries? Which recipes are you most proud of? Can we publish one of them?
Joanne: I do cook at home a lot. [Chris and I] come up with new recipes all the time at both Flour and M+C. I am really proud of our Banana Bread and Oreo recipes and our Dan Dan Noodle Salad [spicy Sichuan sauce made of ground peanut and sesame seeds served over noodles] at M+C.
ASIANCE: How did it feel to beat Bobby Flay with your sticky buns? Can you tell us a bit about the event?
Joanne: It was great! I was totally surprised and it was a lot of fun. The competition was around February/March, but the show was aired on the Food Network in July this year. I had never watched Bobby Flay before so I wasn’t sure what the show was all about but afterwards when someone explained it to me I realized what a great opportunity it was to be featured.
ASIANCE: What are your Thanksgivings like? What sorts of food do you prepare/eat? Is there a combination of Asian and American foods?
Joanne: When I was young we used to have roast duck and rice and mostly Chinese food. Since moving away from home we have more typical American Thanksgiving dinners with turkey, potatoes, etc. with not a lot of Asian stuff.
ASIANCE: How much of an influence does your Asian background have on the pastries/food at your bakeries and the way you cook or bake in general? Does it play an important role in your life? If so, how?
Joanne: I am not super big on really sweet items for the most part – “ I think that influences my baking a lot. In terms of cooking I do try to make sure there’s a good combination of crunchy, soft, cold, hot, the whole yin-yang thing.
ASIANCE: What is your take on fusion food? Do you like or dislike it?
Joanne: To be honest I haven’t really had any fusion food that I’m aware of… .
ASIANCE: Have there ever been challenges being in the kitchen as a woman? As an Asian-American?
Joanne: I’ve been fortunate to not really notice any discrimination either for being female or Asian in the kitchen.
ASIANCE: What has made you a better pastry chef or cook?
Joanne: Always tasting, always testing, always working with others.
ASIANCE: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had while being in the food industry? Have you been able to overcome it and if so, how?
Joanne: The schedule is tough – “ but I’m engaged to someone who also is in the industry so we’ve managed to make it work!
ASIANCE: What were your experiences like working at Payard Patisserie, Rialto, Biba? Which was your favorite place to work under and why?
Joanne: All were great – “ very challenging – “ I loved working at all of my former places of employment because I had great bosses and mentors at all and I learned so much from each kitchen.
ASIANCE: Who do you admire and draw ideas from most?
Joanne: My fiancÃ©, Christopher Myers, most definitely.
ASIANCE: What are the top 5 must-try items at Flour?
Joanne: Everyone loves the Banana Bread. I would also say the Chocolate Chip Cookie, the Pain aux Raisin, the Lemon Raspberry Cake, and the Multi Grain Rolls.
Joanne Chang’s Sticky Buns
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 3 hours 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Yield: 6 servings
- 1 recipe Brioche dough, recipe follows
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped Goo, recipe follows
- On a floured work surface, roll out the brioche dough into a rectangle that is approximately 1/4-inch thick.
- Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, and pecans and sprinkle evenly on the brioche.
- Roll up the brioche jelly roll-style and slice the roll into buns about 1-inch thick.
- Spread the Goo on the bottom of a roasting pan and place buns evenly spaced in the pan.
- Cover and allow to rise for 2 to 3 hours in a warm place.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Place buns in the oven and bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes.
- Let cool for 10 minutes and then invert onto a serving platter.
- Serve with Cafe au Lait.
- 2 1/2 cups high-gluten flour
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1-ounce yeast
- 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1/2 cup ice water
- 5 eggs
- 11 ounces butter, softened
- In a large bowl of a stand mixer, combine all the ingredients, except the butter and beat on low with dough hook for 10 minutes.
- Add the softened butter and knead for another 20 minutes until dough slaps on the side of the bowl.
- Place in a container and cover well.
- Proof in refrigerator for at least 6 hours.
- Proceed with shaping of sticky buns (see above)
- 1/2 pound butter
- 15 ounces brown sugar
- 5 ounces honey
- 1/2 cup cream
- 1/2 cup water
- In a saucepan over medium heat, melt together the butter and brown sugar.
- Remove from heat, let cool, and whisk in the honey, cream, and water.
- Set aside.
Melody grew up loving to write, especially about food, and went on to receive a B.A. from U.C. Berkeley. Her last position at a food magazine allowed her to live out her then dream job of eating fancy foods everyday and critiquing their flavors and textures for articles. Now, she works for The New York Daily News and invents Asian-fusion recipes for Asiance. You can reach Melody at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her MyAsiance page at my.asiancemagazine.com/mymelody.
Above photo by www.jkvphotography.com