By: Sebastien Laforest
As a restaurant owner, cookbook author and James Beard Foundation Award winner, Chef Joanne Chang has made quite a mark within the culinary industry. Her Massachusetts based eatery, Flour Bakery, has flourished over the years growing to nine locations across the state. In addition to the bakery concept, Chang and her husband opened the popular Asian fusion restaurant, Myers + Chang, located in Boston’s South End. It’s a wonder how Chang finds the time to make the occasional appearance on television. Most recently, she was featured on Netflix’s Baking Impossible.
A self-made success, Chef Chang’s business and culinary accomplishments did not materialize overnight. In fact, she did not expect to have a career in the food industry at all. After completing her undergraduate degree in applied mathematics and economics at Harvard College, Chang initially worked as a management consultant. She only lasted there a few years before making the change to cooking.
“The turning point was when my coworkers–in my age group–were all moving on to business school. And I just didn’t want to take that next step. It’s a big commitment.” Chef Chang always found herself with her head in a cookbook, baking cakes for friends or hosting a dinner party. Why not take her innate interest and turn it into a proper career?
She began contacting local restaurants in the search of any opening that she could find—in the hopes to learn more. Chang continues, “I really lucked out. One of the top restaurants in Boston–the chef called me. She said, ‘come in for an interview.” During the interview Chang told the hiring chef, “I don’t have any professional experience cooking anywhere and I will work really hard.” And with that, Chang officially got her start as a bar cook at Biba restaurant located in Boston.
Starting out as a bar cook to now owning a successful bakery begs the question—how did Chang recognize becoming a pastry chef was something she wanted? The chef explains while working at Biba, she worked near the pastry station. Being so close, she and her coworker would often help one another. As time passed, Chang found herself mainly working on the pastries more and more. Whilst homing her skills, there was a spark in Chang. She discovered her niche—pastry was to be her focus. Now knowing where her interests lie, Chang brought this to her head chef.
“I told my chef that I really enjoy doing pastries. She pointed me in the direction of an opening left by a pastry chef who had left to open his own bakery. And that’s where I got my first bakery gig. Walking into the bakery for the first time was kind of a lightbulb moment for me.” After several years working as a pastry chef, holding positions in Massachusetts and New York, Chang eventually opened the first location of Flour Bakery in Boston’s South End in 2000. Along with her husband and business partner, they decided to expand the business in 2007 with a second location. In the same year they opened the acclaimed Myers + Chang, a popular Asian-fusion eatery going on almost 23 years.
Some might find it daunting to speak with such an accomplished chef about food and wine pairings. Surprisingly, Chang is very relaxed and very relatable when approaching the subject. “I don’t really think about it. I know intellectually that you’re supposed to pair a certain wine with certain food–but I don’t think that way,” Chang says. “If it works for you and you enjoy it–that’s all that really matters.”
She even admits to the occasional fumble when opening a traditional bottle of corked wine. “For me, I think the idea of the single [serving] can is so easy and straight forward and fun. Wine can be a little mystifying or daunting to people, and that makes it so approachable. So, I love the idea of having something simpler that allows me to enjoy wine that’s going to taste delicious with food,” she shares. It's understandable why a partnership with Archer Roose for the Global Wine Cuisine series felt so natural to her.
Our collaboration showcases Chef Chang’s vegetable dumplings recipe, which is paired with Archer Roose Pinot Grigio. This recipe is a variation of Momma Chang’s Dumplings–a Myers + Chang menu classic. “Momma Chang’s Dumplings are the classic dumplings. They’re my mom’s pork and chive dumplings that we’ve had on the menu since we opened,” shares Chang. “I really wanted to offer a vegetarian version. I love vegetables and I wanted to create something that highlights how delicious vegetables can be.”
Experiencing balance is a major point of food pairings for Chef Chang. “When we do a tasting, I always ask myself, ‘Is this so good that all of a sudden I look down and go wow we ate the whole thing?’ The Pinot Grigio with the dumplings–it has the same kind of balance. Each one invites you to enjoy the other one even more.” Filled with edamame, tofu and savory seasoning, her recipe brings all the warm feelings that comfort food should. When paired with the light and uplifting Pinot Grigio, everything harmoniously comes together on the palate leaving you feeling nothing but joy and satisfaction.
For the latest on all things Chef Joanne Chang, Flour, and Myers + Chang–be sure to follow @joannebchang on Instagram.