The Globetrotting Chef Brings it Home

Aliya LeeKong in Turkey

We know. You don’t have much time to cook. What with all the work/kids/building the next technology company/trying to meet your spouse/(fill in the blank), you’re busy.

But perhaps this Thursday’s Republic of Brown find will inspire you to break out the cardamom in your cupboard for something else besides a cup of chai.

Without further ado, meet Aliya LeeKong. A global citizen building a culinary brand for our times. A time where borders hold no meaning. Where we can take the best from far corners of the world and create something new and amazing…and tasty.

Smart, beautiful and talented, LeeKong is Indo-Pakistani/East African. Her mother was born in Karachi and her father in Tanzania. She was born in New York and considers it home. A world traveling, spatula wielding chef committed to infusing the exotic into our daily diets.

LeeKong’s passion for cooking is insatiable. Post business school at Columbia she worked on Wall Street, dreaming of recipes during the day. She’d often come home at 10pm and cook till 3am. She was obsessed, yet not quite ready to fully embrace her calling.

Then one day she took her first cooking class and she was done.  She took the plunge, enrolled in the prestigious French Culinary Institute and followed her bliss. That path has taken her to 35 countries in the last 10 years. Most recently to Goa and Turkey where she immersed herself in the local cooking scene. Learning from people at their homes and small restaurants, her philosophy is to absorb what the people are doing and then make it her own.

She has cooked at some of the best restaurants in the U.S., including Thomas Keller’s Per Se. Which she says “was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

But she did it. And we get to reap the rewards. She’s working on a cookbook that promises to make us salivate. For now, we can get a taste (pun intended) of her cooking from her blog at

She gave us an advance peek at her latest recipe (Arabic Coffee Pana Cotta) inspired by her trip to Turkey. And yes, it has cardamom.

So set your chai aside and get cooking.

Got a foodie friend? Send them this story. You’ll get bragging rights for the find and maybe even a delicious dessert.

For more places to put your cardamom, see her recipe for Baked Peaches with Cardamom Streusal & Honey-Vanilla Cream

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