Janice Wong Is Creating A Pastry Wonderland For MGM Cotai
Following a few notable openings last year, starting with her first overseas venture in Hong Kong, followed by another in Tokyo, Japan, and then her first full-fledged restaurant in Singapore at the National Museum, Generation T lister and trailblazing pastry chef, Janice Wong, is set to make another giant leap forward. It could also prove to be her biggest undertaking yet.
The 34-year-old will be part of an impressive line-up of celebrated international chefs to lead the culinary programme at the upcoming MGM Cotai in Macau, where she looks to present her largest collection of sweets and confections to date.
The resort, which is set to open in early Q4, will also feature Grill 58 Degree—a steak-centric restaurant by French-Argentinian chef Mauro Colagreco of Michelin-starred Mirazur in Menton, France. Japan’s Chef Mitsuharu Tsumura of Maido (no.8 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list) will open Aji, Macau’s first authentic Nikkei restaurant, while Top Chef’s Graham Elliot looks to introduce his Michelin-worthy interpretation of Californian flavours with his West-Coast-lifestyle inspired Coast restaurant.
Wong, a back-to-back recipient of the San Pellegrino Asia’s Best Pastry Chef title (2013-2014), will have the momentous task of setting up the resort’s focal pastry shop—a modern interpretation offering an extensive range of sweet treats, from cakes and eclairs to mochi, tarts, crepes, chocolate, ice cream and, yes, the plated desserts she is known for.
It will also offer an all-day dining menu of simple savoury items. “I had the option of putting anything I liked on the savoury menu but I decided to focus on the pastry, keeping the savoury offerings more general—bite-sized items like sandwiches and pasta,” she shared with Singapore Tatler Dining. “We might even be the first Singapore brand to feature local flavours such as chilli crab and laksa,” she posited, alluding to items like her laksa leaf lemograss flavoured chocolate.
Exclusive to her MGM outpost, though, are dishes such as Singaporean lobster laksa, wagyu beef banh mi with sweet pickled jalapeno, and duck confit crepe with hoisin mayonnaise.
She will also be serving her dessert ode to Singapore flavours dubbed Shades of Green, featuring pistachio sponge, kaya pandan ice cream and coconut textures.
To be sure, Wong is not your typical pastry chef, but there shouldn’t be any doubt as to what her latest venture is all about. Besides, it would be hard to miss one of the world’s largest chocolate fountains, located just outside the pastry shop-restaurant. The 7.3m tall tree-like sculpture will also be spouting another first for the young chef: rivers of her very own chocolate (a collaboration with Cacao Barry). “This new concept is the epitome of the pastry dream,” she shared. “It is a modern-day sweets wonderland marrying pastry and art.”
Indeed, as one would expect from Wong, art plays a key role in her creations. “It’s also (about) a feast for the eyes,” she affirmed, adding that she will also be introducing cakes for the first time. And while her flavours take inspiration from the classics (well, as classic as an almond milk marbled swiss role or yoghurt-honey-lemon-chamomile cake, at least), visitors can expect a whimsical twist to her creations, much like her colourful hand-painted chocolates.
That is what her philosophy has always been about, she explained; “It’s fifty per cent play, fifty per cent consistency”. The black sesame-popcorn cake, for example, is presented as a dark-coloured cube filled with liquid black sesame, which is topped with a ruby red truffle containing liquid popcorn.
Right Time, Right Place
Holding the fort, though, will be 21-year-old Gan Ying, who has worked with Wong at 2am: dessertbar the last three years. She will lead a team of 50, and Wong has every confidence she is the right person for the job, expounding on how she is one of her best staff.
“I nearly jumped out of my chair when I first heard about it; where was I going to find 50 staff?” she joked, explaining that she’s currently working with a strength of 35 in Singapore. “Having 50 is going to be a good challenge”.
It might seem like so much in happening over a short period, but taking on this project, after MGM China approached her to create the concept for MGM Cotai about a year ago, was really about taking advantage of the right opportunity and the right time. “I think this (latest opening) sums up how far I’ve pushed myself in the pastry world,” said Wong, who will be visiting the outlet four times during the first year of operations and twice a year after that.
Certain confections, such as her chocolates, will continue to be made in Singapore. For a start, she is looking to send “thousands of chocolates and 10 thousand jars of edible paint”. It’s a lot of space on the display shelves to fill, she laughed.
Designed by Design Bureaux, New York, the space will seat 68, and the small kitchen at the back is “mainly for plating the dishes”, she explained. “The kitchen at the basement level is huge—it takes half-an-hour to walk the entire length.” And this is where the rest of the magic takes place, where 12 flavours of ice cream and eight varieties of eclairs, six types of tarts, 12 different mochi and 11 unique cake creations, to name a few, are made.
Because that’s how a pastry wonderland is built.