After calling Hong Kong, California and New York home, Ivy Hung wants to bring her cosmopolitan tastes to GW.
Hung, Sodexo’s new executive chef, hopes to infuse an Asian-focused style of cooking she calls, “New American, very California,” into J Street’s menu.
She was born in Hong Kong and then lived in California for 12 years, where she cultivated a taste for fresh and local ingredients.
“California grows really beautiful vegetables,” Hung said. “I’m interested in the farm-to-table concept.”
She attended the French Culinary Institute in New York City and then worked at the upscale Danube restaurant in Tribeca before shifting her focus back to the West, where she cooked at ski resorts in Colorado and Wyoming.
Hung embraces cooking with free-range meat and organic ingredients, but said using seasonal, local vegetables and fruits is one of the most important aspects of her cooking.
“Organic is good but it depends on the concept,” she said. “If it’s regional, that’s more important than free-range.”
She said her interest in local and fresh ingredients came from her experiences as a gardener.
“I’m pretty obsessed with gardening, so I know what grows best in what season and what soil,” Hung said. “My cooking is very season-driven. I’ve been eating that way myself for so long that I crave that in my dishes.”
Hung, who started her new position at GW at the end of January, said although she has not had much time to explore D.C., she is enjoying the diversity of the city’s food.
Although her role in Foggy Bottom is a departure from her past culinary experiences, Hung said she is excited and optimistic about her new setting.
“You have to have respect for the regional food and culture,” she said. “And you bring a part of yourself, too.”
As for her own cooking, Hung said she enjoys cooking game meat, especially lamb, but also finds room to think up vegan recipes, some of which she plans to unveil at J Street.
“My go-to meal is a green salad or starch salad that can stand alone with enough nutrients and vitamins,” she said.
She said she is looking forward to cooking for students, a group she has not yet served, even if it means altering her style.
“I want to get that chance to get feedback and make sure whatever I’m doing fits the base we’re serving,” she said. “A good chef shouldn’t just use himself or herself as the ultimate blueprint. I try to cook what the mainstream likes but to use my own tastes as a beacon for where I’m going.”