“In search of my mother's garden, I found my own.”
- Alice Walker
Meet the Chefs: Sophina Uong – Picán
A native of Cambodia, Sophie Uong is a self-taught culinary master. With over 15 years of experience at some of the most notable restaurants in the Bay Area, Sophie has developed a well-rounded knowledge of the kitchen. With a background including positions as server, bartender, cook, owner and executive chef, Sophie has learned the operational process involved in leading a restaurant. Known for creating passionate and daring dishes, Sophie brings her exciting energy to the kitchen at Picán.
A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, Sophie started her culinary career as a server for Zare, lulu and Antica Trattoria, learning the ins and outs of the dining room. Following her years of serving at these renowned San Francisco eateries, Sophie became the bartender at Absinthe Brasserie & Bar in Hayes Valley. While bartending Sophie perfected her hand-eye coordination to work efficiently and quickly is such a busy environment.
In 2006, she opened 900 Grayson with three business partners, the restaurant was awarded Best Burger by San Francisco Magazine and quickly became a West Berkeley hotspot for those searching for delicious and flavorful dishes. She then went on to become Executive Chef de Cuisine for Betty Zlatchin Catering in San Francisco, where she focused on using local sustainable food practices for all of her events. It was there, working alongside one of her mentors, Tom Rippey, that she learned the intricacies and technicalities of the palate.
As the new Executive Chef at Picán, Sophie has been learning Southern culinary traditions from owner, Michael LeBlanc. Her hard work ethic and raw talent around the kitchen has helped Picán reach a new level of success. “My whole life has been focused around creativity and good food,” says Sophie “being in the kitchen provides an avenue of expression for me.”
Outside of the kitchen, Sophie enjoys spending time with her nine year old daughter and continuing to discover new ways to embody the feelings, emotions, sounds and flavors of Southern food.