Top Chef Lee Anne Wong
February 14, 2009 29

Top Chef Lee Anne Wong

Bravo TV keeps churning out hit reality show after hit reality show. As addictive as these shows are, we've recently become hooked on its latest show, Top Chef. Talented chefs from all over the United States compete in the fast paced, high pressured restaurant business for a chance to earn the title of "Top Chef". The final episode will be shot in Las Vegas where 1 "Top Chef" will receive $100,000 in seed money to help encourage their culinary career, be featured in "Food & Wine Magazine" and appear at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen in June 2006.Bravo TV keeps churning out hit reality show after hit reality show. As addictive as these shows are, we've recently become hooked on its latest show, Top Chef. Talented chefs from all over the United States compete in the fast paced, high pressured restaurant business for a chance to earn the title of "Top Chef". The final episode will be shot in Las Vegas where 1 "Top Chef" will receive $100,000 in seed money to help encourage their culinary career, be featured in "Food & Wine Magazine" and appear at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen in June 2006. One of the last men standing is Lee Anne Wong, Executive Chef at the French Culinary Institute in New York City. Her talent, professionalism and eagerness to learn from the best, has kept her in the game. ASIANCE Magazine sat down with Lee Anne Wong as she dishes on her favorite dish, her most respected chef and her most admired cast member!
They thought I was crazy. "Wasted brains" was what they called me!
Lee Anne Wong

ASIANCE: Tell us about your ethnic background.

Lee Anne Wong: I am Chinese American. My mother was born in China and she moved with her family to the Philippines when she was a child. My dad is second generation Chinese. So I guess I'm about 100% (laughs). I was born and raised in upstate New York.

ASIANCE: What is your education as a chef?

Lee Anne Wong: I went to FIT for Fashion Design. Then I decided to switch careers and go to the French Culinary Institute. I took their Professional Culinary Program. It's a 600 hour total emergence program. It's hands on. I graduated in 9 months. I took the evening program, 3 nights a week.
Lee Anne Wong
Lee Anne Wong

ASIANCE: Who did you get along with on the show?

Lee Anne Wong: Ha ha. Actually Harold is here today working with me! Harold, definitely! We just went to Mexico together and he cooked out with me down there. Dave is coming here this weekend. He's going to stay with me. Lots of people! There were a couple people I didn't get along with..(laughs). For the most part, I got to meet some interesting people and make a few friends.

ASIANCE: Did you admire anyone?

Lee Anne Wong: Harold of course! Harold is definitely a great chef. He's calm, cool and collected. Everybody had a little something to bring to the show. I learned some things from, believe it or not, Cynthia. The whole point was that we were all very passionate about food. So we all had something to offer in terms of skill level. The people I liked to watch were Stephen, Tiffani and Harold. They are all very talented. And of course I look up to Tom Colicchio (laughs).

ASIANCE: Were you familiar with Tom Colicchio?

Lee Anne Wong: It's funny. I'm from New York. I've worked with some of Tom's chefs who run his restaurants. I know him on reputation. I know a lot of people who have known him closely. It was a very cool experience and a great opportunity to work with someone who is as successful in the business as he is.

ASIANCE: What is your favorite dish to make?

Lee Anne Wong: Rare bleeding rib eye with a bottle of red wine. Very simple. A grilled piece of steak is my favorite. I love all foods. We were just in Mexico cooking. We did a lot of cooking and had a lot of fun down there. When you get around amazing produce or amazing protein you just get a desire to cook anything.

ASIANCE: Are you a fan of the show "Iron Chef"?

Lee Anne Wong: I love Iron Chef. I love the old school Iron Chef, the Japanese Iron Chef. It's one of my favorite shows to watch. I don't have too much time for television. I also like Seinfeld and Entourage.

ASIANCE: Who are your favorite chefs?

Lee Anne Wong: Greg Achatz in Chicago, currently at Alinea. I had the privilege of working with him when he was at Trio. He is doing some phenomenal, ground breaking food out in Chicago. André Soltner, Dean here at The French Culinary Institute. He's amazing. He brought French Cuisine to the forefront. He does old school French food like nobody else. Obviously, Feran Andria, Juan Mari Arzak and Elena Arzak. I'm really big into the Spanish movement right now. Heston Blumenthal out at the Fat Duck in England. A huge variety of chefs. People doing cutting edge food. At the same time, I like food that has its roots in classic technique.
Lee Anne Wong
Lee Anne Wong

ASIANCE: What about Patricia Yeo (Asian American woman chef out of New York) of Sapa?

Lee Anne Wong: I worked with Patricia Yeo on many occasions. She's funny. She never had any formal training. She studied under Bobby Flay. Yeah Bobby was actually a graduate of the first class here at The French Culinary Institute. He graduated in 1984, 22 years ago. We have a picture of him down in the hallway when he was just a teenager with a big red afro. He's great. You have to respect somebody who has built himself quite an empire. A lot of people are very opinionated about people in this industry; chefs, restaurateurs. It is in my opinion that anyone who is crazy enough to get in this business and stick with it and be successful at it; Kudos to you! May not be my kind of food but, "Hey?!" I've had the privilege of being in the same room with him and helping him out too.

ASIANCE: Does he come back and teach?

Lee Anne Wong: He hasn't been back in awhile. His schedule is really, really busy. He'll come back and practice for an Iron Chef episode. We've seen him on several different occasions.

ASIANCE: You admire your mom!

Lee Anne Wong: My mom is a phenomenal woman. It's sort of interesting because growing up, my parents gave me everything I needed but didn't spoil me. They wouldn't let me have a Cabbage Patch Kid; they made me one (laughs). The fact that my mom came to America in her early 20s and created a life for herself and created a family is just amazing and a very brave thing to do. She's a nurse. She's worked in the emergency room for 30 years. My mother has guts. She's a great lady and a great cook. She's really supported me in all my creative endeavors. I did well in school. I could've gone into a career in Mathematics or Law. My parents totally supported me when I said, "Hey, I want to go to Art school" and "Hey, I want to go to cooking school". They thought I was crazy. "Wasted brains" was what they called me! They are doing ok with it now. I just cooked New Years Eve dinner at the James Beard House in New York City, which was my debut. It was a big deal. My family came down and they are proud to see that I'm doing ok.
Lee Anne Wong with the cast of Top Chef
Lee Anne Wong with the cast of "Top Chef"

ASIANCE: What about that guy in the beginning?

Lee Anne Wong: Someone threw a whole damper on that one. Ken is a psycho. I was so embarrassed. He was rude to Hubert Keller. I was like, "What are you nuts?" Do you expect to have a job when you get back to LA? I don't know why anyone would go on TV and misrepresent themselves like that, unless they really are like that?

ASIANCE: What are you up to now?

Lee Anne Wong: I'm consulting on a movie. They are doing a remake on a movie sort of geared around a restaurant. We're creating all the menus and dishes. We did a tasting for the Director this morning.

ASIANCE: Any advice to girls who want to be a chef?

Lee Anne Wong: Thick skin! It's tough. I work at a culinary school so I see the influx of people that want to be chefs. It's a double edge sword because people see the network and they imagine that this is what it's all about, which is so far from the truth. It's a lot of blood sweat and tears. I got yelled at alot. It's sort of the understanding that it's not personal and yes you are going to be surrounded by a bunch of males; put your head down and work. It's such a rewarding experience if you are passionate about it. Well that's with anything. If you are passionate about what you do, you'll get there eventually. I'm just starting to see the doors that are open to me. I'm going to have so many opportunities coming up in the future. I'm starting to get a sense of myself and my cooking and my food. It's a great feeling to get up everyday and Love your job. Stick with it!!


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  1. Rosanna's Avatar
    Rosanna
    April 04, 2006 Reply
    I noticed Harold put his arm around Lee Anne last episode. I think they are together too.
  2. Steve Savage's Avatar
    Steve Savage
    May 05, 2006 Reply
    Lee Anne seems to have a taste for darker meat too. She seemed more than happy to eat a string cookie off that chest of that muscular black dude in episode 2.
  3. Diana's Avatar
    Diana
    May 05, 2006 Reply
    I can not watch Top Chef anymore now that Lee Anne is gone. She should have won!
  4. jonathan's Avatar
    jonathan
    May 05, 2006 Reply
    i have also watched top chef and you were definately the best one there but im not tom or billy's wife.. anyway do you have any suggestions to me about that school? and what to expect??
  5. Joel Villamil's Avatar
    Joel Villamil
    May 05, 2006 Reply
    Lee Ann, I just love the way you cook on Bravo's Top Chef. Too bad you were eliminated. Anyways...goodluck to all your endeavors! To me, you're the best! PS: Lee Ann, what is your email address? I wanna ask something...thanks! My email is chuys90041@yahoo.com
  6. Joel's Avatar
    Joel
    May 05, 2006 Reply
    Just wanna let you know that to me you are the best! Too bad you've been eliminated to the show. Hey Lee Ann, can i have your email address? I just wanna ask you something and don't wanna post on here. Take care...talk to you soon!
  7. Austin, Texas's Avatar
    Austin, Texas
    May 05, 2006 Reply
    Lee Ann you are true to the Art,screw TV it's not reality !
  8. Firewolf Nelson-Wong's Avatar
    LeeAnne, I always posted on the TC boards as NavajoChef. I am Navajo Indian & my husband is Cantonese(via Brooklyn)You proved to everyone that women of color can bring it to the table & serve it hot & juicy, girl! Lo Fan robbed you of your place in Vegas & evryone on the boards knows it!I'd love 2 stop by FCI 2 say hello someday w/ my 2 girls who have mad respect for you! My younger one now cooks more with me!From 1 Wong 2 another, thank you!
  9. Carla Abraham's Avatar
    Carla Abraham
    May 05, 2006 Reply
    Lee Anne, I wanted to say that I admired your skill and dedication on Top Chef. I was sure you, Harold, and Tiffani would go to the finals and you'd win, but as we all know, reality TV isn't always based on reality. Congratulations on all you've accomplished and I know you will succeed in all your future endeavors. Keep on rockin'.
  10. Mona Mae's Avatar
    Mona Mae
    May 05, 2006 Reply
    LeeAnne, I felt you should have been in the top three for Las Vegas. You cook well, enjoy working with others, and are true to yourself. That is the ingredients for a Top Chef and you have them all. Good luck in your future endeavors and thank you for being a great example for women chefs. <br />
  11. Jennifer's Avatar
    Jennifer
    May 05, 2006 Reply
    I think Lee Anne's really cute. If anyone is ugly, it's Tiffani. She's ugly inside and out! I'm sure John is butt fug.
  12. Master's Avatar
    Master
    May 05, 2006 Reply
    There is no way Lee Anne should not be in the top 3. Tiffani is a nasty, miserable person. She is NOT considered a Top Chef in my book!
  13. Christine's Avatar
    Christine
    May 05, 2006 Reply
    I am so unnerved that Lee Anne is not in the top 3. She Should've won! But I guess they cant have an Asian win again, since Chloe won the last Bravo show hun?
  14. BPCGRL's Avatar
    BPCGRL
    May 05, 2006 Reply
    The Bravo Top Chef producers made the same mistake they did in Season One of Project Runway: they left the choice of the final three to an outsider (Nancy O'Dell, that time), and came up short. Admirably, Colicchio made choices throughout the season that reflected the growth and expertise of the candidates as a whole, not necessarily the minutia of the task of the moment. Unfortunately, it was out of his hands at a most critical juncture (check out his blog...). Lee Anne is tops, and likely deserved to win.<br /> But, hey - now she's got an even bigger fan base..!
  15. Brenda's Avatar
    Brenda
    May 05, 2006 Reply
    Hi Lee Anne,<br /> Even though you didn't win, I know you are going to go so far! You're an Asian Inspiration!
  16. Lee's Avatar
    Lee
    May 05, 2006 Reply
    Nice interview!
  17. Diana's Avatar
    Diana
    May 05, 2006 Reply
    Not that Lee Anne is not in the top 3 I refuse to watch the finale.
  18. kate's Avatar
    kate
    May 05, 2006 Reply
    I believe you should have made the final 3. Also now that I just saw the final 3 show and saw that Tiffany won I don't believe that I will even watch the last show nor will I be around for season 2. It is unfortunate seeings how i was such a fan. But to dump Dave for Tiffany who clearly won none if the challenges was just as disappointing as when you did make the final 3.
  19. Gina's Avatar
    Gina
    May 05, 2006 Reply
    Lee Anne you looked pisssed!!!! when that fat slob Tiffani kissed your man on the reunion show!
  20. Annodam's Avatar
    Annodam
    May 05, 2006 Reply
    Totally upset with the judges for choosing Tiffani to continue when Dave won a challenge and had the most liked item on the 2nd challenge. Tiffani did not win any challenge and she received many unfavorable comments. I won't watch anymore because of this!!
  21. Brenda's Avatar
    Brenda
    May 05, 2006 Reply
    Girl, I watched the Top Chef Reunion show again. If I were you, I would've bitch slapped that Firecrotch Tiffani for kissing my man. yeah, like she has a chance with Hottie Harold.
  22. Chach's Avatar
    Chach
    May 05, 2006 Reply
    Lee Anne, I just wanted to say how much i enjoyed you on Top Chef. You were my favorite from the start, and remain so. I was rooting for you to make the finals, grrr. I thought you had it for sure! It was that whole everybody did lamb thing that effed it up. I hope someday to visit New York and possibly enjoy a meal prepared by you. Good luck in your culinary career.
  23. Christy's Avatar
    Christy
    May 05, 2006 Reply
    I do want to point out that by far you came up with the most innovative ideas on the fly. I think hands down you are a better chef than most. Harold and you and Dave I think were the best. You are a very creative chef
  24. Rhoda Maiolo's Avatar
    Rhoda Maiolo
    May 05, 2006 Reply
    Lee Anne, First of all, great job all around for your performance at Top Chef. The reason I TIVOed the show was to see the kind of dishes you'd make next. Fabulous job at "representing" the Asian community. You did us proud :)<br /> <br /> You competed with heart and showed your best -- without backstabbing, without all the griping. Sadly, this is probably why you were eliminated. Bravo had to go with the drama, that's what brings-in the bucks. <br /> <br /> I think you fought hard and fair. You left the show with your moral intact. You're great and lots of success to you in the future!
  25. Firecrotch hater's Avatar
    Firecrotch hater
    May 05, 2006 Reply
    LeeAnne, I love you! Tell Firecrotch to stop moving in on your man Harold. She has no chance! She looks lesbo.
  26. Julie Jackson's Avatar
    Julie Jackson
    May 05, 2006 Reply
    Thank you LeeAnne for you talent and generosity, Im a single Mom with my last daughter at home who is creative and has a great imagination and is such a good cook. We loved watching your talent and strength and you set such an awesome example for my daughter to follow. Bless you and may you have a life full of happiness.
  27. Albert Talcott's Avatar
    Albert Talcott
    June 06, 2006 Reply
    <br /> Hey Lee Anne! It's Albert her and I was just wondering what your impression of the FCI was for you. was it everything you hoped it would be? Was it amazing? If you could PLEASE E-mail me back with a response, I would be very grateful! <br /> <br /> Thank you so very much,<br /> Albert T.<br /> <br /> P.s.- You, I thought, should have been the winnner of Top Chef! you were amazing. I think your my idol!
  28. Pockylover's Avatar
    Pockylover
    June 06, 2006 Reply
    Yeah, I think that Lee Anne and Harold have a little somthin' special. I mean, they were always putting their arms around each other and they just went to Mexico together. What more proof so you want?! If not, they should get together. They are perfect for each other! Hey Lee Anne, why don't you tell every one what's really going on? We all want to know, right?!
  29. Jay's Avatar
    Jay
    August 08, 2011 Reply
    , Hi Lee Ann. when in NY,please go to Alice's Tea cupand ask for Ingrid..........You would love the eats that they have there.

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