Q&A with Chef Cathy Asapahu of Ayara Lūk

Posted by Jenn Infanto on 31st October 2017

We have a very talented team and each month we will be featuring someone from Ayara Lūk. This month we are proud to feature Chef Cathy Asapahu with a one-on-one interview.

farmto table

Q. Title at Ayara Lūk:
A. Currently, I’m a cook but I also craft a lot of the desserts on the menu.

Q. Give me a little background on you. How did you become the gifted pastry chef that you are today?
A. Growing up watching my parents cook, I’ve always been curious and excited about food. I flirted with the idea of going into culinary school as a teenager but I never worked up the nerve. After graduating from UCLA with a bachelor’s in sociology, I had a chance to move to New York with a friend. Having dropped into one of the most magnificent culinary scenes in the world, I decided to stage around the city and was lucky enough to work with some great chefs. Though I started working in the savory kitchen, I was called upon to learn pastry as well (to fulfill a shortage of cooks as there always is.) I fell in love with working in pastry and have made it my goal to learn more and be better.

Q. What is your pastry style?
A. Just as Thai food is balanced between the five principle flavors, I seek to create balance between the textures and flavors that go into my dishes. I like to make sure that my desserts are not only sweet, but also tart, a little salty, and sometimes even spicy.

Q. When you are not working, where do you go to eat?
A. When I’m not working, I love to get inspired by the food scene in L.A. Some favorites spots include Leo’s Tacos for the best al pastor tacos, Destroyer in Culver City for brunch, and everything under the glorious dominion of Roy Choi.

Q. When creating a new dessert, where do your get your inspiration from?
A. When creating a new dessert, my first inspiration is simply flavor. I usually get my flavor inspirations from cravings that I have which are usually tied to comfort foods I had growing up. After establishing a flavor and memory, plating naturally follows. For instance, my grandfather loved Milo, which is like the Nesquik of Asia. That chocolate malt flavor was the inspiration for my Milo chocolate mousse cake. My grandfather was also an avid gardener, so I chose to decorate the cake with matcha crumble to mimic the moss that was all over the trunks of the trees in his tropical garden. He also grew pandan leaf, so I made a pandan whipped cream. The whole dish is an homage to him.