Culinary Council

Alexander Ong

Director of Culinary Excellence

UMass Dining | University of Massachusetts, Amherst Amherst, Massachusetts

Chef Alexander Ong has eaten and cooked around the world, and he incorporates all the flavors of his journeys into the food he lovingly creates. Born and raised in Malaysia, he launched his culinary career at the Shangri-La Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, where he built a foundation of classical French technique. He traveled the United States as a chef for Ritz Carlton, finally landing in San Francisco, where he built his legacy. At the right hand of legendary chef Jeremiah Tower at Stars, Ong found his most influential mentor, becoming a devotee of farm-to-table California cuisine. But his decades of experience with French, Italian, and American food could not quell his passion to cook from the Asian canon of his heritage; he led the opening team of influential French-Vietnamese restaurant Le Colonial, then went on to helm the kitchen at Berkeley’s acclaimed pan-Asian destination Xanadu. There he was named Rising Star Chef by the San Francisco Chronicle, setting the stage for his wildly successful turn as chef/partner of San Francisco’s Betelnut Pejiu Wu. At Betelnut, Ong consulted with restaurateur and Chinese food icon Cecilia Chiang to create a truly unique dining experience, earning three stars from the San Francisco Chronicle, and gracing the newspaper’s Top 100 restaurant list for many years. The Michelin Guide’s Bib Gourmand category featured Ong’s bold small plates for multiple years of his tenure there as well.

The father of two boys, Chef Ong has shifted his focus to inspiring and informing the next generation of diners, and now serves as the Director of Culinary Excellence at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, which has been named for Best Campus Dining by the Princeton Review for six years. He serves as a member of The Culinary Institute of America’s Asian Cuisines Advisory Council and is a regular presenter at their annual Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives conference in Napa Valley. He relishes the opportunity to teach culinary courses to professional students when possible; his ramen and pho classes are highly sought after. In his spare time, he can often be found golfing or fishing (neither particularly well, he admits) or teaching his teenagers the art of folding the pleats of xiao long bao. He never met a noodle he did not like.

Culinary Tips

When making mashed potatoes, drain the cooked potatoes very well and lay them on a baking tray and dry in a 300°F oven for 15 minutes before ricing the potatoes through a mill or potato ricer. This ensure your potatoes are not wet but instead dry, fluffy, and ready to accept the butter and milk or cream to create a light, creamy, smooth mashed potato.