The Most Famous Fusion Chef
Hooked on Kimchi
“No single chef has made more influence on the way…other chefs cook and other restaurants look.” — New York Magazine
You have probably noticed an explosion of Thai-inspired restaurants run by Westerner chefs. You will find them in many places, even in Bangkok.
Jean-Georges Vongerichten, the Alsatian-born French chef, may be the single person most responsible for this phenomenon.
Why did this take place? And how did it happen in the first place?
In the first place, as a young classically trained French chef, Vongerichten had a chance to work in Bangkok.
The flavors and ingredients in Thai cooking inspired Jean-Georges. He began to learn all about Asian cooking. Not just Thai, but a variety of cooking traditions.
And he was successful in melding what he learned with traditional classical French haute cuisine, plus his own inventions and innovations into something brand-new and excellent.
Vongerichten has opened more than 50 restaurants in many of the food capitals of the world. His culinary empire has had outposts in key parts of the Pacific Rim, including Shanghai, Singapore and Vancouver.
Vongerichten’s restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong was named the best restaurant in the world. And he has done a lot of missionary work, through his writings and videos, to spread the influence of Asian cooking internationally.
In a reverse Silk Road move, Vongerichten has opened an outlet in Istanbul, which was one of the terminal points on the old Spice Routes.
Vongerichten has teamed up with the Matsushita brothers of Japan on a venture focusing on Japanese buckwheat noodles and other classic Japanese fare.
Vongerichten has the ability to combine elements from several traditions — for insance, a Japanese concept — the Bento box — which might hold a Thai salad an an Indian ice cream, kulfi made with Ovaltine, which is Swiss in origin!
Somehow all these things should not go well together, but in Vongerichten’s hands, they end up tasting great. He has impressed chefs, food critics and a wide range of diners, including the great and famous.
“His food took my breath away.” — Ruth Reichl
Vongerichten has been active in Donald Trump’s properties. And he has catered a meal for United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon that counted New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former President Bill Clinton among the guests.
Vongerichten may be best known for his personal take on French-inspired Thai cooking. But he has used influences from a number of cuisines — Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Indian, Vietnamese and Korean, to name several.
His wife is Korean-American; Vongerichten has become a fan of kimchi and has been incorporating Korean cooking into cosmopolitan cuisine.
In his early restaurants, Vongerichten managed to incorporate more than 150 different herbs, spices and special ingredients into his culinary mix. He has since gone on to widen this scope.
Vongerichten has been active in sharing his knowledge. He has written at least five cookbooks, two with cooking maven Mark Bittman.
Vongerichten has revealed his technique for Tamarind Ketchup, a fusion of Thai and Western ingredients that is simple and delicious. It’s a good way to sample his approach.
Another very simple Vongerichten recipe is Seasoned Salt, again Asian in origin, which he uses to replace table salt. Another special approach is shown in his Spiced Salt, which is piquant and aromatic, but has half the sodium of ordinary Table Salt.
“His book Simple Cuisine was the holy grail.” — Mario Batali
Vongerichten’s book Simple Cooking, long a bible for ambitious chefs, is a good place to learn more about his style. For those with special interest in Pacific Rim cooking, his Asian Flavoring of Jean-Georges is also helpful.
Vongerichten may be America’s answer to nouvelle cusine; he is about as Fuson as you can get, in the nicest possible way. For example, Ovaltine Kulfi in a Thai Bento Box. And h may just have invented the Molten Chocolate Cake!
For further information:
 New York Magazne — http://nymag.com/
 Vongerichten’s Thai-inspired cuisine — http://www.templeofthai.com/asian-food-life/blog/thai-food/chef-jeangeorges-thai-inspired-cuisine/
 “JeanGeorges Vongerichen,” article, Wikipedia –– http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Georges_Vongerichten
 Matsushita Brothers of Tokyo and Honolulu — http://www.manta.com/c/mmy9hg9/matsushita-brothers-inc
5] Ruth Reichl — http://www.gourmet.com/profiles/ruth_reichl/search?contributorName=Ruth%20Reichl
6] Mario Batali — http://www.mariobatali.com/
 Mark Bittman –– http://bittman.blogs.nytimes.com/
 Tamarind Ketchup — http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/tamarind-ketchup-glaze
8] Seasoned Salt — http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/crispy-garlic-chicken-with-dipping-salt
 Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Page — http://www.starchefs.com/JGVong/html/index.shtml
 Vongerichten’s Books –– http://www.amazon.com/Jean-Georges-Vongerichten/e/B001H9Q0WU
 The Kimchi Chronicles — http://www.amazon.com/Kimchi-Chronicles-Cooking-American-Kitchen/dp/1609611276