One of New York’s Top Pastry Chefs Has Quietly Been Working at Maketto

Get yourself one of Pichet Ong’s doughnuts

Pichet Ong.

Head to Maketto on any given morning, and you’re likely to find a pretty amazing breakfast pastry. Perhaps it’s a slightly crunchy cake doughnut tinged with cardamom and ginger and sheened with a not-too-sweet strawberry glaze. Or maybe it’s a flaky scone laced with Thai sausage, cheddar cheese, and scallions. The reason? Pichet Ong, the James Beard-nominated pastry chef who once worked at New York restaurants like Jean-Georges Vongerichten‘s Spice Market, has moved to Virginia and been working at Erik Bruner-Yang’s Cambodian/Taiwanese kitchen full time since the beginning of the year.

The s’more-inspired affogato at Maketto. Photograph by Rey Lopez.

For a cookbook author and resident judge on Cake Wars, Ong has been keeping a pretty low profile. But the chef, known for desserts that ride the line between sweet and savory, is involved with all manner of Bruner-Yang projects—including making burger buns for Paper Horse, Bruner-Yang’s stall in the H Street Whole Foods. For Maketto’s dinner menu, Ong has added dishes like strawberry mochi with lemon verbena from the Maketto garden, and aloe-vera shaved ice with mango, strawberry, basil and palm seeds, and passionfruit. You’ll also find his confections at Sunday’s dim sum brunch. (“Dim sum is a great showcase for pastry chefs,” he says.) Up in the cafe, look for pick-me-ups like ice cream sandwiches made with mulberry ice cream and rice-flour cake, or a s’more-inspired affogato. He’s currently got a thing for gluten-free desserts. “Erik was observing Lent and wasn’t trying anything,” Ong says. “I was annoyed. So I started making gluten-free desserts, and he had no excuse.”

Ong’s strawberry cake doughnut.

When the long-delayed Line Hotel opens in Adams Morgan, tentatively this September, look for more of Ong’s creations. He’s thinking of doing traditional Scandinavian cakes, like almond tosca cake, or marzipan-and-whipped-cream princess cake, at Bruner Yang’s Brothers and Sisters. For the hotel’s Coronation Coffee, he’s planning rotating flavors of kouign-amman.

But in the meantime, there’s plenty to dig into at Maketto, starting with those doughnuts.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.