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Q&A: 12 questions with Chef Jessica “Paope” Wang

Jessica ‘Paope’ Wang is the archetype of beauty meets talent. She’s a master in the kitchen and a champion who never rests on her laurels.

Age is just a number, and Jessica ‘Paope’ Wang knows it well. A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School in London and Bangkok, she has a knack for bringing the world’s attention to underrated local Thai dishes. After a series of adventures in the culinary world, this charming and skillful chef won the third season of MasterChef All-Stars Thailand at the age of 25. She’s proven to everyone that pursuing a passion or dream doesn’t have to start at a young age. She describes passion, resilience, and determination as the perfect formula for achievement. At the same time, she shares her cooking expertise via her YouTube channel to inspire her followers to fearlessly chase after their dreams.

But her journey doesn’t just stop there. Behind the vlogging scene, she turns herself into a bubbly and joyful baker. She spreads her love for baking with a fluffy and jiggly traditional Taiwanese cake at her beloved Babekery. What’s more, she’s taken on an additional role as an owner of an all-day dining café which will be opening its doors next month. She’s spreading her wings far and wide, and there’s no doubt we’ll be seeing more of her success in the near future. Here, we got to sit down and have a food-centric chat with her. Read on for our exclusive interview with the well-rounded and ambitious chef to learn more about her culinary journey.

What inspired you to become a chef?

I was studying hospitality management before I graduated from university, and it gave me so much exposure to F&B operations. Especially during my internship in the service section of the F&B department, I got to work closely with food. It made me think that it’d be very nice for a girl to be able to cook. I also feel that every girl should have special talents, so I chose cooking to be one of mine. That’s when I decided to seriously kickstart my culinary journey.

 

How would you describe your style of cooking?

‘Mix and match’ is a perfect word to describe my style of cooking. From Thai to French cuisines, I like to combine various backgrounds of mine to create fusion dishes as well as turn savoury dishes into desserts and vice versa. Thus, when you look into my plate, you might think it’s a dessert when it’s a savoury dish.

What kind of stories are you telling through your food?

Every plate I create and present tells a story about uniqueness. I love to mix and match the techniques from both desserts and savoury dishes so that itself implies we can be extraordinary and out of the box. There’s no need to follow what’s fixed on the recipes and we can always create something new.

 

What was the meal that inspired you to become a chef?

All of the fine dining dishes were a part of my inspiration of becoming a chef. There is a lot of precision and details that go into every dish. Combined with unique techniques, it just felt as if I’m watching chefs creating art on the plate. It set a standard and propelled me into a culinary journey.

What was your most memorable moment during MasterChef All Stars Thailand?

I think it was during the team challenge when we had to go cook outdoors and create hundreds of dishes for different judges. We did it under the hot sun, so overcoming challenges with tremendous determination and teamwork was a wonderful memory for me. It was the moment that I felt that together as a team, we’ve made an impossible possible.

How do you deal with crises in the kitchen?

Honestly, crises in the kitchen happen all the time (laughs). The best way to deal with it is just to always be calm. I can work under pressure, but I was very paranoid and panicky in the past. So after numerous rounds of competing in the show, I can firmly say that mindfulness and calmness are the two crucial keys for effective problem-solving in the kitchen.

 

Do you find it challenging to constantly create?

Of course, food trend always changes and there are so many talented chefs out there. Nonetheless, it’s the challenges that make it more fun. You really have to think outside of the box and learn what’s new around you. Besides, I’m quite motivated so that pushes me to constantly create.

Throughout your culinary journey, what are your three best dishes?

This is a hard question! I would go for all three dishes during the final round MasterChef All Stars Thailand. I elevated local Thai ingredients into fine dining and brought the judges’ taste buds on a culinary tour to different regions of Thailand with fusion appetizer, main course, and dessert. Those are what got me the champion trophy.

 

What made you start a YouTube channel?

I started my Youtube channel right after I graduated from culinary school, which was way before competing in the show. I began my journey as a chef quite late compared to other people, and I used to think that it’s impossible to master cooking if you don’t start at a young age. Hence, being able to win myself a Le Cordon Bleu certificate is very meaningful for me. This Youtube channel of mine serves as a motivation and inspiration for people who think like me in the past, as well as a reminder that hard work and passion makes everything possible.

Any tips for aspiring chefs?

I think that the purpose of my Youtube channel says it all. Just do your best, stay determined, and bring out the most of your passion. Regardless of the industries, these qualities are the essentials for your survival and progression.

 

If you were an ingredient, what would you be and why?

I would say that I’m a salt. It’s an unskippable flavour enhancer and yet many people underestimate its significance. Whether it’s a savoury dish or dessert, you can’t show the signature flavour without it. It’s absolutely something that I can’t miss in my cooking journey.

Last but not least, what’s for dinner?

It’s funny that after I’ve learnt how to cook and cook for many people, I’ve come to appreciate simple meals more. So just a simple rice bowl and a sauce to go with it is a lovely dinner that I can’t wait to dig in.

Karatpetch Vattanapoon
As a culture enthusiast, Karatpetch loves to travel, learn new cultures and languages, and has great zealousness for food. She is also an amateur dancer of various styles. Watching sports, sightseeing, cooking, knitting and exploring beauty goodies are her moments of simple joy.