Pastry Chef and Partner Genie Kwon takes on the challenge of creating the compelling tasting menu finale at two Michelin-starred Oriole in Chicago’s West Loop. Kwon collaborates with her partners Noah and Cara Sandoval on every aspect of the restaurant, including the design of the open kitchen, the comfortable-industrial aesthetic, down to the dishes upon which her creations sit. For Oriole, she amended her culinary philosophy to accommodate the extended tasting-menu format. “We’re creating the best overall experience,“ she explains. “The dessert at the end of the meal doesn’t overwhelm or overstuff, but finishes with impact.”
Kwon’s desserts play with familiarity by harkening back to a nostalgic dish or comfort food, but break from normal by reimagining the recipe or putting forth new flavor profiles through classic technique. Most importantly, each dessert complements the rest of the menu and impresses the diner, situating the guest at the focus of the meal.
As a child, Kwon once filled her family’s New Orleans kitchen with smoke as she burned a batch of experimental cookies; though the result was barely edible, she recalls that her mother still ate them. This childhood memory stuck with Kwon, a remarkable facet of her lifelong passion for cooking, even as she entered college as a biochemistry student. Intuition soon guided her away from the sciences and into Newbury College’s culinary program in Brookline, MA. Earning a scholarship and experiencing the industry firsthand empowered Kwon to pursue a career in pastry.
While still attending Newbury, Joanne Chang offered Kwon a position as barista and later baker at Flour Bakery + Café in Boston. Chang, a mentor to Kwon, also opened Myers + Chang down the street, where Kwon worked as prep cook and server. These positions put Kwon through school, as well laid the groundwork for her career.
The Big Apple beckoned after Kwon graduated with a degree in culinary management, opening the door to opportunities in such influential restaurants as The Stanton Social, Nobu Fifty Seven, and Eleven Madison Park. Proving herself in New York City gave Kwon the confidence to travel abroad, working with Janice Wong at 2am: Dessert Bar and Makito Hiratsuka at Restaurant André, both in Singapore.
Jetting back to the United States, Kwon found herself in Chicago working alongside Dimitri Fayard at The Peninsula Chicago. Later, she worked at River North’s GT Fish & Oyster and Lincoln Park’s Boka, both Boka Restaurant Group properties. Kwon’s work with the group earned her the 2014 Jean Banchet Rising Pastry Chef of the Year award. Not long after, Kwon became acquainted with her current partners while dining at Senza, where the Sandovals worked at the time. The friendship soon became productive as Oriole was born among aligning philosophies.
When not creating delectable treats at Oriole, the downtown Chicago resident hones her drawing skills by creating greeting cards and studies new languages to heighten her international travel experiences. Kwon also enjoys cooking at home, and she one day dreams of founding a Segway tour of Chicago’s food landscape.
Awards & Press
- James Beard Award