In the recent hubbub over restaurant openings and Top Chef filming, the news that Butcher & Bee has boarded one of the nation’s most celebrated pastry chefs has been largely eclipsed.
As owner Michael Shemtov points out via e-mail, the only media mention of Cynthia Wong was contained in a short Charleston City Paper blurb about a barbecue event. Understandably, Wong is accustomed to considerably more press: Since 2008, when she opened Cakes & Ale in Atlanta, the Charleston-born, French-trained chef has appeared in Food & Wine, Garden & Gun and Bon Appetit.
“Her unique desserts are always worth saving room for,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution decreed soon after she started marinating cherries in ouzo and sandwiching mascarpone between spicy gingerbread cookies. Those signature “phatty cakes,” which became an instant Atlanta icon, are now available at Butcher & Bee.
In 2011, Wong left Cakes & Ale to join Hugh Acheson’s Empire State South as executive pastry chef. She briefly decamped to London before returning stateside to claim the same title at John Fleer’s Rhubarb in Asheville, N.C. While there, she was named a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Pastry Chef award; it was her third appearance on the longlist.
“We are very lucky to have her on the team and believe she is going to elevate the bread and pastries at Butcher & Bee,” Shemtov says.
While Wong is new to the Charleston restaurant scene, hints of her style may have cropped up on local dessert plates prior to her arrival. Her former assistant, Melanie Durant, in 2014 was named FIG’s first pastry chef. “(Wong) was my cheerleader,” Durant told Scoutmob.com, “giving me instruction, inspiration, and smoothing out the edges when I needed it.”
Fleer described Wong’s style as “modern (and) focused.”
Wong says she plans this week to debut plated desserts such as custard-filled pistachio financier with yuzu, blueberries and blueberry sorbet, and a peach tatin with basil, creme fraiche and raspberries. The breakfast lineup includes a cherry-lime-pistachio pocket danish and rosemary-caramel sticky bun.
Phatty cakes and “wicherdoodles,” which Wong describes as “snickerdoodles sandwiched with brown butter-caramel-milk chocolate cream,” are classified as all-day treats.
The new Butcher & Bee is located at 1085 Morrison Dr. A selection of Wong’s pastries will also be sold at The Daily, 652 King St.