The Dessert Daredevil
By Stefanie Ellis
June 23, 2022
Jessica Wang skillfully blurs the lines between sweet and savory
If you ordered dessert at a fancy restaurant, and just learned that the insides of a roasted Japanese sweet potato found new life as a mousse, only to be layered with pear compote and glazed with Valrhona white chocolate after being reshaped into its original potato form, would you think it was a mistake?
What if you were presented with a fairytale-like Valrhona milk chocolate mushroom “cap” filled with a porcini mushroom mousse, resting atop a hazelnut dacquoise “stem,” nestled next to an orb of smoked vanilla gelato? Perhaps things would start to make sense by the time you finished your bone marrow ice cream with black garlic balsamic reduction, puff pastry tuile and bone marrow gravel. Oh, and the heirloom tomato granita with tarragon olive oil, burrata ice cream and olive oil cake is on its way.
By the end of your culinary expedition, you’d know what a small, yet devoted following knows: Seattle chef Jessica Wang blurs the lines between sweet and savory in elegant, creative ways, inspiring people to think differently about dessert.
“My desserts may be a bit outside of people’s comfort zones here in Seattle,” she says, “but maybe not for those who have been to New York City and traveled abroad.”
Having been classically trained at Paris’ esteemed pastry school, École Grégoire-Ferrandi, Wang’s skills were further developed at several acclaimed French restaurants: two Michelin-starred Le Grand Restaurant—Jean-François Piège; Un Dimanche à Paris; and Top Chef France finalist-owned restaurant, Pierre Sang.
Wang returned to Seattle and launched a confection and pop-up dessert business, hédonisme, in July 2020 after getting laid off from her job as pastry sous chef at Maialino and the Grammercy Park Hotel in New York City during the early days of the pandemic. Her commercial kitchen is in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood.
Despite the incredible heights she reached in some of the best kitchens in the world, the unrealistic expectations she encountered took their toll. “A lot of chefs don’t want to work for people anymore,” she says. “There are long hours and low wages, and people have reevaluated if this is something they want to dedicate their life to.”
Wang, like many, had to reinvent herself during the pandemic. For her, that meant recreating a dessert-oriented style of Japanese dining known as omakase, where chefs choose what guests eat — something she experienced while living and teaching in Japan after graduating from Seattle University with a B.A. in International Business.
The pop-up idea turned into a true business model after Wang was given an opportunity to use the kitchen and space for her own elevated dessert concept at Violet in Capitol Hill — before the second wave of the pandemic — on a night the restaurant wasn’t open. Her event was so well-received that she forged ahead and tried to secure more restaurant partners. She made cold calls at dozens of restaurants, going door to door with a menu in one hand and bon bons in another, until she happened to “stumble” upon Paju, a Korean restaurant in Queen Anne.
“I had one menu and one bon bon left,” she recalls. “They took a chance on me for my second pop-up, and I’ve done my pop-ups there since then.”
In addition to her dessert pop-ups, she also launched a bon bon business, which has been so successful that her first set sold out in two days. “Bon bons were supposed to be takeaway gifts for those who attended my omakase,” Wang admits, “but I decided to sell them to see if there was a market.”
Eventually, she’d like to open a bon bon retail shop and a dessert omakase restaurant, but for now, she’s content to keep pushing the limits of her creativity, offering her edible performance art to curious audiences.
“Food is something everybody is connected to, but it’s not just the food you’re focused on,” she says. “It’s the overall experience — the taste, the smell, the company, the music in the background. Everything around it is so critical to the full experience. I just want to make people happy. No one should have to worry about the food.”
Get insider details on bon bon sales, and find the dates and locations of Wang’s upcoming pop-ups on instagram.com/hedonisme.seattle.