Published on 10/15/20

CHEF PHUONG QUACH FUNG

A San Diego, California native, Chef PQ found her calling in the kitchen at a young age. She has almost 10 years of culinary experience, starting her career working as a server before starting her journey working in the kitchen. Chef PQ studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena and followed her career all over California. Currently, she is the Pastry Chef for Alexander’s Patisserie of Alexander’s Group.

For years she has worked at famous patisseries such as Bottega Louie, Tout Sweet, and Sixth Course. She has also worked for Michelin Starred Restaurant Madera and Forbes 5-star rated hotel, Rosewood Sandhill of Menlo Park. Through the years, Chef PQ has deepened her knowledge of French pastry while paying homage to her California and Asian roots. Chef PQ takes inspiration from all of her travels, where each of her creations invokes a memory.

Since her residency at Alexander’s Patisserie, she has started a successful custom cake and wedding cake program that brought another element to the patisserie. Since 2017, she has been leading the Alexander’s team towards culinary excellence, leading to features in Edible Silicon Valley, Nob Hill Gazette, Best of Mountain View, Blackboard Eats, and more.

Q&A

Valrhona: What inspired you to enter the world of pastry?
Phuong Quach Fung: My family immigrated over from Vietnam post Vietnam War, and before then, the entire extended family made a living in the food industry. My mom made rice noodles and my dad was a butcher. I was always inspired to cook and I loved the artistry and science that comes with pastry, so I decided that it was time for me to make the big jump and chase after my dreams. I never looked back and love living my dream every single day.

Valrhona: Who in your life has been the biggest mentor/inspiration in your career?
Phuong Quach Fung: My biggest inspiration for my career has always been my mom. She was able to raise 6 kids in a new country without knowing the language but always made sure to cook 3 square meals every single day for all of us. My greatest inspirations are food that evokes a memory, just as my mom’s meals have done for me. I try to emulate that as much as I could in all that I create, and even in my teaching methods with my cooks

Valrhona: How is your team responding to the new realities of the world during and eventually post-COVID-19?
Phuong Quach Fung: We are learning and adjusting every day. We have always held sanitation and safety in high regard, but now more than ever not just for ourselves but also for the community and guests that we serve. We are hoping post-Covid-19 that we can learn more about sustainability, since ingredients were not as easy to come by, and also watching our waste to save on costs.

Valrhona: What Social Responsibility/Community initiative are you the proudest of taking part in?
Phuong Quach Fung: We are proud of still being able to serve our guests safely while upholding our quality of products. Outside of my work at Alexander's, I was making charity baker boxes to raise funds for Covid-19 Relief Funds and Bakers Against Racism. Total, with the help of generous donors, I was able to donate $4,000, which was 100% of the profits. I also sent out gratitude packages to Frontline Workers, at no cost to anyone. Someone just had to simply send me an address, and I would send it out to say thank you for all that they do every day.

Valrhona: What are your hopes for the future of the world of food and pastry?
Phuong Quach Fung: I hope that we can all learn to work together more as a community to better the product and industry as a whole. When things slowed down, it gave me a chance to focus on what was important and be more hands on with the learning of my cooks. Their growth in their skills and dedication to run around, while wearing masks and cleaning constantly, showed me that we did not need to compromise quality just for quantity. Now with so many shops closing down and unemployment on the rise, it was great to see so many people be able to bake at home and share their products with everyone, while still taking the time to donate when and where we could. Things may never be the same, but that may be the point; we are growing and adapting to be better than ever before.

Valrhona: What should the role of the food/pastry industry be in the community? The world? The environment?
Phuong Quach Fung: I believe that the role of the food/pastry industry in the community is to remember that we are not making food for ourselves, but for others. We are sharing a part of ourselves throughout the years we have dedicated to our craft, so sometimes we should take a moment to talk to the guests, ask what they want and need because, in these times, people need more comfort than ever. I saw how many people were taking the time to bake/cook at home for themselves or their families, and it was nice when we, in the industry, could help teach or supply ingredients to make them successful. For the world and the environment, we should look more at sustainability and watching our food waste. People are lining up for hours to get food from the food bank, or not having enough money to pay bills and get groceries. For that, we should take a look at what we are focusing on and help feed the community in our own way.

Valrhona: What is your most famous dish?
Phuong Quach Fung: My most famous dish would be my London Fog. An earl grey infused mousse cake with kumquat confit, almond joconde, on top of a salted chocolate sablé, glazed and finished with fresh kumquats.

Valrhona: What is your favorite type of pastry to make? To eat?
Phuong Quach Fung: My favorite type of pastry to make and eat would have to be cookies. It was the only thing that my mom let me buy given our financial status back in the day. Whether it is an American classic such as chocolate chip cookie or the famous French macarons, I love to make and eat them all.

Valrhona: If you could pass one bit of insight down to another chef, what would it be?
Phuong Quach Fung: My insight down to another chef would be to take care of yourself and take care of your team. There is no such thing as a successful one-person show, so take care of those who are loyal around you for their success can lead to your own success. You have one body and one mind, so take care of that first because if you cannot take care of yourself, how can you expect to take care of others?

Valrhona: What is your favorite kitchen tip?
Phuong Quach Fung: My favorite kitchen tip is to “open your eyes”. My cooks know I love saying this to them, and it is not just to look carefully where the mis en place is but to open your eyes and pay attention to all the details. To pay attention to what everyone does or does not do so you can learn what to do and what not to do.

Valrhona: What is your favorite Valrhona Chocolate?
Phuong Quach Fung: My favorite is JIVARA 40%. There is something magical about a smooth milk chocolate that isn’t overbearingly sweet and goes well in just about anything you can imagine. I even always finish my chocolate chip cookies with one full JIVARA feve!

Valrhona: What is your favorite perk of the Cercle V program?
Phuong Quach Fung: My favorite perk would have to be how much the Cercle V creates such a community of Chefs. I really enjoy being able to connect with other chefs to be able to share recipes or even thoughts and ideas, whereas I would not be sure how I could connect with Chefs from other regions.

Valrhona: When & how did you hear about Valrhona for the first time? / When & how did your “relationship” with Valrhona start?
Phuong Quach Fung: I was at my first job at Bottega Louie and I have been fortunate to always work with Valrhona throughout my career. Bottega Louie uses exclusively Valrhona just as Alexander’s Patisserie does. The first chocolate that I used was JIVARA and I never looked back. There was something so beautiful about how I felt like there was no such thing as bad chocolate from Valrhona. Thanks to Valrhona chocolate, I was able to grow and write all of my recipes for the past few years and know exactly which one to use and how much to use. It really does take the guessing game out of everything.

Valrhona: Who do you follow on social media?
Phuong Quach Fung: @KrissHarvey, @mrrecchiuti, @honeybeecake, @amauryguichon, @rustamkungurov, executive_pastry_Chef_hin, @yusuke.1019

Valrhona: What do you like to post on social media?
Phuong Quach Fung: I like to post my newest creations or time-lapse videos of the work behind the stuff that I do. I want everyone to be able to see the process behind the creation and not just the finished product itself.

Valrhona: What do you like about the Valrhona App?
Phuong Quach Fung: I love that I can pull up specific chocolate I want to use, and it automatically calculates everything for me.

QUICK FIRE

Nickname?
PQ

Celsius or Fahrenheit?
Celsius

Cake or Tart?
Cake

Favorite Restaurant?
Girl and the Goat, Chicago.

Wine or Cheese?
Cheese

Coffee or Tea?
Tea

Favorite Kitchen Tool?
Offset spatula

Go-to snack?
Mango with Taijin

Craziest delicious flavor combination?
Strawberry, mango, habanero

CHEF PHUONG QUACH FUNG'S LONDON FOG