Gone are the days when the professional kitchen was considered a man’s world. With tenacity and perseverance, a slew of talented female chefs are pushing through obstacles and carving out their own niche in pursuit of their passion. In honour of International Women’s Day, we ask Asia’s top female pastry chefs to share their words of wisdom with the next generation and their proudest desserts to date.
MICHELIN Guide Hong Kong Macau
One MICHELIN Star, MICHELIN Guide Hong Kong Macau 2022
Signature Dessert: Chocolate, rosemary and olive oil
In Mexico, where pastry chef Dafne Daniels grew up, chocolate is deeply rooted in the culture. “I find inspiration from my memories,” she says. “I try to represent the Latin American culture through incorporating its flavours in my desserts.”
Chocolate plays an important role at Mono, too, as the restaurant prides itself on making its own chocolate from scratch, which involves fermenting, drying, roasting and peeling of fresh cacao beans before breaking them into nibs. The nibs are then ground with sugar and cocoa butter to become the “Mono varietal chocolate.”
The chocolate is the star of Mono’s signature dessert, which is served with rosemary ice cream on top of chocolate ganache and Particella 34 olive oil, finished with a crunchy chocolate net.
“Believe in yourself, keep a goal in mind and stick to it. Let other people help you when you need it. Try to learn something new every day, and never lose your passion!”
One MICHELIN Star and Green Star, MICHELIN Guide Hong Kong Macau 2022
Signature Dessert: Yuzu, local strawberries, honeycomb and shiso
British chef Teigan Morrison has been interested in food and its connection to art for as long as she can remember. As the chef de partie of Roganic, she finds inspiration from natural and abstract artwork, which influences the way she approaches colour and texture in her plates.
Following Roganic’s sustainability ethos, Morrison enjoys working with local produce that best reflects the season. Her favourite creation to date is a yuzu sorbet paired with Hong Kong strawberries, which plays with different textures and herbaceous elements to create a balanced dish.
“Don’t shy away and immerse yourself within tasks at work as it all helps to build confidence. Take opportunities as they come, wherever they take you.”
Two MICHELIN Stars, MICHELIN Guide Hong Kong Macau 2022
Signature Dessert: Ode to The Sun
Every dessert created by chef Nocar Lo, who believes “the most flavourful cuisine is made simply by the freshest and highest quality of ingredients,” is a nod to Tate’s East-meets-West philosophy.
Born and raised in Hong Kong, Lo’s proudest dessert to date is “Ode to The Sun,” a tropical dish made with mango, passionfruit jelly, pineapple sauce and trio vanilla ice cream. “We serve this dish during the summer season, using the best fruits available and everything under the sun,” says Lo. "You can feel the heat from the concentration of the fruits and it's balanced out with a scoop of vanilla ice cream."
“Believe in yourself and keep learning. Put what you’ve learned into practice and don't give up."
MICHELIN Selected Restaurant, MICHELIN Guide Hong Kong Macau 2022
Signature Dessert: Baba au rhum
Cooking started out as a hobby for Natalie Eng, but what piqued her interest was “the technicality and artistic nature of this field.”
Eng's latest creation is a refreshing take on baba au rhum paired with an agrumes compote, highlighting the best citrus fruits of the season.
What makes Eng’s recipe different from the traditional baba au rhum is the use of Samaroli rum, which is favoured for its full bodied, creamy custard and buttery notes that evoke the smell of a French patisserie. Citrus also plays a part, which comes in a marmalade melange of grapefruit, oranges, lime juice, zest and lime caviar, creating a fresh and acidic contrast to “lighten up the heaviness."
“Fans of the original boozy version may find this quite pleasant,” says Eng.
“Be confident in your knowledge but always be willing to learn and grow. Stop for a moment and reflect on how far you have come, re-evaluate what is important to you and strive towards that.”
MICHELIN Guide Singapore
Three MICHELIN Stars, MICHELIN Guide Singapore 2021
Signature Dessert: Clementine
An award-winning pastry chef, Cheryl Koh was appointed to lead 3 Star Les Amis’s pastry kitchen in 2013, where she reminisces that it was because of the restaurant and chef Sebastien Lepinoy that she was given the opportunity to exercise her hand in making her own breads and desserts, as well as her first experience of running her own pastry kitchen.
Her signature dessert, Clementine, is “inspired by the delicate citrus flavours from the fruit,” says Koh. “It showcases variations of clementine in different textures and is paired with a floral and bright Earl Grey jelly.”
“As a woman, I believe having the right aptitude and attitude are important to be successful, regardless of gender. Speak up for what you want and always strive for excellence.”
Three MICHELIN Stars, MICHELIN Guide Singapore 2021
Signature Dessert: Ardèche Chestnut
Having trained at Le Cordon Bleu Paris, Louisa Lim joined three-MICHELIN-Starred Odette in 2019, where she works closely with chef Julien Royer to imagine desserts that satiate both the Eastern and Western palate.
Her signature dessert, Ardèche Chestnut, is an ethereal interpretation of the classic Mont Blanc, embodying “beautiful memories I have of Paris, where I spent my training years learning the art of patisserie. It is a creation that still resonates with me deeply even today,” says Lim.
“Trust your instincts; and as long as the feeling is right, go for your gut, and all else will fall into place."
One MICHELIN Star, MICHELIN Guide Singapore 2021
Signature Dessert: Celtuce, yuzu, green chilli, yoghurt
Singapore-born Maira Yeo has been the pastry chef of Cloudstreet since August 2020. Prior to her full-time role with the newly-minted MICHELIN-Starred restaurant, Yeo worked at 1-Star Meta for four years before deciding to expand her horizons by staging at different restaurants and patisseries across New York City, where she trained at 2-Star Aska, and then travelled to Montreal and then Oslo before coming back to Singapore to assume her current role.
On Cloudstreet’s current tasting menu, the pre-dessert course is one of her proudest works to date. “Celtuce was an ingredient that I’ve always wanted to work with ever since I ﬁrst smelled its aroma, as it reminded me greatly of pandan. From that association on, it was easy to pair with ingredients like green chilli, yoghurt, and yuzu.”
“Own your craft, and don't be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself, especially as a woman. Try to give yourself as little excuses as possible. If there is a will, there is a way."
Spago Dining Room
MICHELIN Selected Restaurant, MICHELIN Guide Singapore 2021
Signature Dessert: Salted caramel soufflé with farmer’s market Fuji apple sorbet
Ai Li Ong’s first few roles in the industry, in fact, had nothing to do with pastry making; however, she was recognised for her talent in baking and is now helming the dessert kitchen of MICHELIN-listed Spago Dining Room in Marina Bay Sands as its executive pastry chef.
A signature dessert and mainstay on Spago Dining Room’s menu since it opened in 2015, Ong describes her salted caramel soufflé as light, delicate, and with an exquisite texture achieved by replacing a large part of sugar in the meringue with salted caramel for a smoky, sweet, and savoury flavour. The soufflé is paired with a house-made Fuji apple sorbet. “We use Fuji apples in particular because they have a distinct, rich aroma and slight acidity — a perfect contrast to the sweet treat. The fruit’s creamy, pulpy form allows the sorbet to go smooth on the palate without the use of any dairy products,” shares Ong.
According to Ong, who is also a mother of two, being a chef is a tough albeit rewarding career, regardless of gender. “There are sacrifices that come with every job, and especially more so in a high-pressure environment. But it is your attitude and what you make out of these lessons that make all the difference,” she says. “I joined the kitchen in my early twenties, found my true calling in the pastry department, and never looked back.”
“I don’t think being female should ever limit anyone in how far they go, regardless of their occupation. In fact, I believe females, especially in the food and beverage industry, bring a different set of values and energy to the workplace that complement their male counterparts.”
“I believe females, especially in the food and beverage industry, bring a different set of values and energy to the workplace that complement their male counterparts.”
MICHELIN Guide Thailand
Cadence by Dan Bark
One MICHELIN Star, MICHELIN Guide Thailand 2022
Signature Dessert: Chocolate and strawberry cream cheese with hazelnut candy and black tea tulle
Ploypapat ‘Kaimook’ Supawiriyawong’s journey began with the joy of making fun and easy desserts for friends and family. Although graduating with a hotel management degree, she fell in love with the fast pace of life in the kitchen and the art of cooking.
After working at a cafe where she passionately created latte art and pastry, she joined Chef Dan Bark’s former one MICHELIN Starred Upstairs. She is currently in charge of Cadence by Dan Bark’s exquisite sweet courses where she displays her signature whimsical flair, creating a dessert of chocolate and strawberry cream cheese with hazelnut candy and black tea tulle.
“Practice makes perfect. Always look for new ideas and don’t be afraid to try them out. You may not know your forte until you actually get to do something. Once you do, just go all the way.”
MICHELIN Selected Restaurant, MICHELIN Guide Thailand 2022
Signature Dessert: Cacao
A business-grad-turned-pastry chef, Rekha “Ja” Limpichart pursued her sweet dream to Paris by studying and honing her skills with top-of-the-class pastry chefs such as Meilleur Ouvrier de France Boulangerie awarded chef Frédéric Lalos at Le Quartier du Pain. She carried on crafting her arts at Lenôtre before joining L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Bangkok.
Limpichart now finds herself as a pastry chef at Stage where she created playful sweet treats such as "Cacao", a luscious combination of super moist chocolate cake with light chocolate mousse in the form of cacao, cream cheese, yoghurt and fromage blanc ice cream, dark chocolate sauce and cacao crumble, in the latest Stage 6.5 tasting menu.
"I would like to encourage all chefs, regardless of gender, to offer the best experience to our guests. Be open-minded in taking criticism so that we can improve our work and be enthusiastic to learn something new every day from colleagues and guests. Never stop pushing yourself forward!"
MICHELIN Selected Restaurant, MICHELIN Guide Thailand 2022
Signature Dessert: Cereal Bowl
A Malaysian chef has been captivated by cooking since she was a teen, Michelle Goh carved her own path by leaving her motherland to study and hone her skills at Le Cordon Bleu in Sydney. Following her studies, Chef Goh clocked in her hours by creating the pastries she so loved to design in Sydney and Melbourne.
Later, she moved to Singapore to the kitchens of Pollen. She finally moved to Bangkok and worked with the twin chefs of Sühring, which soon enough went on to receive two MICHELIN Stars. Goh currently enjoys creating delicious pastries at Mia restaurant. Her signature menu is Mia’s "Cereal Bowl" with malted milk chocolate and corn.
"This dish is inspired by my sister's favourite dessert that you can get back in our hometown. It’s a shaved ice dessert but they put Milo, condensed milk and corn in it," she says. "I wanted to take those flavours and make a dessert and realised that all those ingredients are typically things that we have for breakfast, so I decided to make an equivalent of cereal bowl." She also shares that the idea is a bowl of cereal with very nostalgic flavours of childhood favorites. "Our homemade cereal mix on top consists of caramelised popcorn, chocolate crumble, dehydrated milk and feuilletine. Then, a scoop of our corn ice cream and finish table side with our cornflakes infused milk. I wanted to present something delicious and simple to create the flavours that everyone is familiar with in a new and exciting way."
"Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. If you want something, go out and get it. If you want to be heard, don’t be afraid to speak your mind. Be confident, be hard working and work towards being respected instead of liked.”
Signature Dessert: Chilli Crab and Starfish
Known for her wild-yet-gorgeous creations, Arisara ‘Paper’ Chongphanitkul found passion in desserts at the age of 17 while studying in France. She pursued her dream by attending a gastronomicom school in the South of France. She later worked alongside pastry greats such as Sadaharu Aoki and Hugues Pouget, Jordi Bordas and Davide Malizia. Chongphanitkul’s creativity at Saawaan and Ici is expressed through dishes like “Chilli Crab", a dessert of calamansi mousse, young coconut and coconut sugar streusel, chilli, coffee caramel and salt-cured egg yolk, made to look like a beloved Singaporean dish.
"I wanted to develop a playful take on a local favourite dish — the Singapore chilli crab — with a Southeast Asian dessert twist. I added some savoury ingredients from the real chilli crab dish into the dessert, for example, chilli, tomato and salted egg, but it still tastes like dessert. In terms of flavour, at first you’re going to get some freshness and sourness from calamansi, some creaminess and a soft bite from the young coconut inside, contrasted with crunchiness from the coconut sugar streusel. The flavour changes when you eat it with the coffee caramel, chilli sauce gel and yolk powder. It gives a complex favour with a light bitterness, saltiness and spiciness."
Another recognisable dish by the talented chef is “Starfish” made with a coffee-vanilla mascarpone mousse, pineapple compote, cashew nut praline, crunchy base, ginger milk froth and ginger drops and coconut rum gel. Both are menus she created especially for MICHELIN Star Revelation events.
“Personally, I still need to improve myself in becoming a good chef. But one thing that I can tell you is to work hard persistently no matter what you do and where you work. It’s the most important thing I’ve learnt.”
MICHELIN Guide Taipei & Taichung
Two MICHELIN Stars, MICHELIN Guide Taipei & Taichung 2021
Signature dessert: Pong Pia
Angela Li’'s love for pastry and baking was developed in her childhood when she followed her mom making pastries in the kitchen. She studied hotel management at school but after an office job in sales and marketing for some time, her love for cooking brought her to the At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy.
After graduating from the academy, she worked at one-MICHELIN-starred restaurant Iggy’s in Singapore and other pastry shops. Later, she worked at Guy Savoy’s outpost in Singapore as well as Fordham and Grand (both now closed). At Guy Savoy, she met chef Kai Ho, who later invited her to Taiwan when he opened Taïrroir. “Back then, I also wanted to go overseas. I had been to Taiwan before and loved it here, so I just said yes without too much hesitation,” she says.
At Taïrroir, she looks into the food culture and tradition in Taiwan for inspiration. “For me, it’s a way to communicate with people—through food and pastry,” she says.
According to Li, “Pong Pia” is a dish that represents herself best. Inside the hollow puff of traditional pong pia, the base is filled with brown sugar crumbles and layered with brown sugar bubble tapioca, ginger ice, sesame oil ice cream and Madong chocolate crémeux to deliver a slight aroma of dried longan. By weaving together the traditional pastry, the sesame oil and brown sugar, dried longan, ginger that are eaten during postpartum confinement in Taiwan, this dessert is sophisticated in texture and tells the story of Taiwan.
“Don’t be afraid of voicing out and don’t put limits on yourself in the kitchen. Be brave to try out things and to speak out. Show respect and support to colleagues. People will recognise and respect you eventually,” she encourages other female chefs.
RELATED: Recipe: Tea Egg
Two MICHELIN Stars, MICHELIN Guide Taipei & Taichung 2021
Signature Dessert: Pulut Hitam
Born in Kaohsiung, Una Han didn’t start her pastry journey in professional culinary school, but was self-taught and driven by her passion for pastry.
At JL Studio, Una works closely with chef Jimmy Lim, who digs into his Singaporean heritage and memories to look for inspiration and possibilities. As a Taiwanese, Una had to spend a lot of time understanding and feeling the Singaporean flavour. When the opportunity arose, she would seize every opportunity to visit Singapore and Southeast Asia to try local delicacies and collect more ideas. “I spend a lot of time pondering what best fits JL Studio,” she says. “I don’t like to put limits on myself. I always try to find what I can do, and how I could do better in the environment I'm in.”
One of the dishes that represents her the most is "Pulut Hitam", which comes from a common dessert enjoyed both in Taiwan and Singapore, black rice congee. With coconut dacquoise as the base, the filling is made with crispy puffed black rice and tamarind black rice jam, which is then wrapped with local purple sweet potato purée.
The delicate flower petal shape is arranged with black rice water sugar tuile, purple sweet potato crisps as well as locally grown fresh edible flowers. The dessert takes the concept and look of French dessert Mont Blanc, but with a Southeast touch of tamarind and black rice, along with a common Taiwan ingredient sweet potato. It delicately weaved together Taiwan and Singapore with a visual and taste feast.
“Working in the kitchen, it’s important to be both soft and tough. Show your attentiveness and willingness to cooperate and ask for help when needed. However, being soft doesn’t mean being weak. You also have to show resilience and persistence, and that you can make things happen.”
MICHELIN Guide Tokyo
One MICHELIN Star, MICHELIN Green Star, MICHELIN Guide Tokyo 2022
Signature Dessert: Flower tart
Mineko Kato was born in Tokyo but spent her childhood in England and Italy. She’s interested in design, fine arts, modern art and manufacturing. Following her childhood dream of becoming a pâtissière, she went to work for a sweets shop in Milan. After that, she devoted herself to training at well-known restaurants in Milan, Modena and Florence.
Kato creates desserts that respect the natural blessings and herbs of Japan. With sustainability in mind, she supports farmers who will pass the land onto the next generation and producers who cultivate native and rare varieties of fruits and vegetables by using their ingredients. The honey she uses from Japanese honeybees helps protect the ecosystem, and she uses naturally grown bananas in vegan desserts, peel and all.
The flower tart, a petit four born from various flowers and herbs grown in the Japanese countryside. It features vegetable-based tart crust decorated with soy milk cheese and more than 30 kinds of herbs and flowers. It’s an expression of her desire to make sure the beautiful satoyama scenery will still be around 50 years from now.
“The world of food will become more brilliant and beautiful if we create a world in which everyone, and that includes women, can choose the life they want and take the lead without the constraints of social norms or stereotypes, regardless of disability or nationality. Let’s build new values together.”
One MICHELIN Star, MICHELIN Guide Tokyo 2022
Signature Dessert: Pear and Rose
Shoko Hirase’s trademark is her pure white cooking uniform and ponytail. As cool, calm and collected as she may appear at first glance, she has a burning passion for life as a pastry chef.
Born in Kumamoto, she was raised by a mother who taught bread making. In 2003, after she had been working in a sweets kitchen of a local hotel, her mother encouraged her to pursue her dreams, telling her that failure, too, was a step to success; so, she went to France. There, at a pastry shop and a restaurant in Paris, she dedicated herself to study.
In 2016, she opened L’aube with her husband, chef Hideaki Imahashi. Her focus is on careful consideration of the ingredients. This is out of respect for the farmers who supply the ingredients and the artisans who craft the plates and bowls. She strives to serve one-of-a-kind desserts that really speak to what the producers of the ingredients had in mind.
The idea for the “Pear and Rose” dish came from an encounter with the “damsel of pears”, the Le Lectier. European pear and rose form the base, on top of whose fragrances are combined with ingredients taken straight from nature, such as jasmine, cranberry and vanilla, creating a perfume-like aroma.
She is also passionate about creating a workplace where employees can put their skills and experience to use, regardless of the stage of career they may be at, their gender or where they were born.
“Use the precious time of your youth for self-improvement, gather experience, choose your future, and pursue it. Don’t give up your career when you get married or have children. It may be a difficult time, but there is joy and satisfaction waiting for when you make it through.”
MICHELIN Guide Beijing
Three MICHELIN Stars, MICHELIN Guide Beijing 2022
Signature Dessert: Contemporary Beijing Artistry
Raised in a family of gourmands and entrepreneurs, Mia (Lian) Yin compassion towards all lives grounds her commitment to life-long plant-based eating at a young age. Graduated from one of the most prestigious culinary institutions, she began her career as a pastry chef as an intern at Hedone, before joining chef Eric Pras' team, where she carefully curated little packages of edible happiness to the guests. At King's Joy, Yin continues her mastery in desserts as a pastry chef, where she strives to serve excellence and shares her compassion through her creations.
Contemporary Beijing Artistry is a dessert in which creativity is blended with ideas of traditional Beijing pastry. In this recipe, one can find traces of taste that used to be appreciated by the royal court in Beijing, like pea paste, hawthorn paste, and mung bean paste. The creative attempt successfully gives a modern twist to classic Beijing flavours, resulting in a low-sugar and low-fat dessert that presents fresh ingredients in a French mousse texture through healthy processing techniques.
“Seasonal, pure, organic, and healthy ingredients with positive nutritional value contribute to the recipe development,” Yin shares. “For many years, we have been committed to promoting a sustainable lifestyle and aiming to provide diners with the purest vegetarian dishes with excellence. We strictly keep low fat, low oil, low sugar, low calorie, zero chemical additives and zero colorant in making desserts.”
“Girls are born to be imaginative and attend to details. These are the strengths of female chefs! Together, let’s bring our diners surprises and impress them with what we make.”
MICHELIN Guide Seoul
Two MICHELIN Stars, MICHELIN Guide Seoul 2022
Signature Dessert: Rice and Namul
It was natural for chef Yoojin Kim, who has loved eating and drawing from a young age, to be interested in the sweet world of dessert. While she received a culinary education in college, her encounter with plated desserts was by accident. “Plating desserts shows the highest artistry among pastries. I like how it reveals the story and tastes as though drawing a picture on a plate,” she shares.
She pursued her passion by working at SONA, one of the first plated dessert restaurants in Seoul. A few years later, she became interested in Korean ingredients like jujube, mugwort and Korean pear. Joining Mingles in 2020 helped her articulate her style through desserts that showcase fine Korean ingredients.
“Rice and Namul” was introduced in the spring of 2022, inspired by a typical Korean meal made with seasonal vegetables (namul) and rice. Rice pudding is served with rice ice cream, ganjang and sesame oil, and various vegetables and herbs. The combination of aromas from namul, the savory taste of rice and sesame oil, and the saltiness of ganjang give a deep-rooted Korean flavour.
Her dessert showcases the elegance of Korean seasonal ingredients, allowing the flavour and aroma of each ingredient to shine. They perfectly ‘mingle’ with other dishes at Mingles. “The ones I use are everyday ingredients and herbs for Koreans, but the key is to create a unique combination,” she expresses.
“To be a female chef is definitely not easy. But even if I had to repeat my steps a thousand times, I would have made the same decision. As someone who walked the same path, I will always support fellow women in the industry. We will succeed together!”
One MICHELIN Star, MICHELIN Guide Seoul 2022
Signature Dessert: Watermelon
What led chef Jinhee Park to the pastry world was curiosity and her passion for discovery. “I have been interested in baking since childhood. It was interesting that the results can be different even if I use the same ingredients or process,” she says. She studied pastry professionally at Le Cordon Bleu Australia and gained experience at famous pastry shops in Australia such as Koi Dessert Bar and Blackstar Pastry. After returning to Korea, she decided to join MUOKI as she was inspired by chef Muhyun Park’s creative menus and plating.
Depending on how you construct the dessert, its character can be completely transformed. That's why Park delves deeply into understanding each ingredient’s taste and aroma to layer her creations. She is lauded for presenting desserts with great taste, diverse texture and visual perfection.
Watermelon, her signature dessert, comprises dacquoise and sponge cake, watermelon gel, rosewater infused with watermelon, watermelon-rose sorbet and watermelon foam to present the fruit in various textures and forms. Feta cheese and rare cream cheese are added to strike a perfect balance. This dessert is a witty reinterpretation of watermelon, which is not usually used as a dessert because of its strong characteristics.
“Don't be afraid of challenges. These challenges always leave something in your life. If you do not give up and keep moving forward, a wonderful future awaits you.”
Written by Aileen Li in Shanghai, Eri Yamazaki in Japan, Kim Nayoung in Seoul, Pruepat “Maprang” Songtieng in Bangkok, Mikka Wee in Singapore, Pearl Yan in Hong Kong, and Hsieh Ming-ling in Taipei; introduction and edits by Pearl Yan.