Since her first restaurant AZ opened two years ago, Executive Chef Patricia Yeo has been winning acclaim for her unique cuisine. By incorporating elements of her worldly upbringing (and techniques from her doctorate in biochemistry from Princeton University), she has created innovative, elegant and intricate menus, which personifies a new style of upscale
cuisine. Her lauded culinary alchemy is surmised by critics including The New York Times' William Grimes who enthused, "In dish after dish, she shows a rare combination of audacity and refinement, sustained with admirable consistency over the entire menu" in his three star review.
This Eugene, Oregon native did not originally intend to don a toque. After excelling in science at the Cambridge, England, boarding school she attended, she completed the requisite studies to obtain her doctorate in biochemistry, intent on spending her career inside a laboratory. It was during a break while obtaining her post-doctorate degree in 1989 that she took a cooking class at the New York Restaurant School. She was exhilarated by the challenges of combining ingredients and culinary techniques to produce immediate results - a definite incentive over the long and painstaking process required for results in a biochemistry lab. Inspired, she turned in her lab coat for chef whites.
While attending culinary school, she met the now-celebrity chef Bobby Flay, who was just hitting his stride at the East Village's Miracle Grill. Their analogous passions formed an instant rapport, and Flay hired Yeo upon her graduation. When Flay left Miracle Grill to open the immensely popular Mesa Grill in 1991, Yeo went with him, as his sous chef. The striking similarities between Asian and Southwestern cooking - the chilies, the cilantro, and the cumin prevalent in both - reminded her of the many ingredients used in her family's cooking, making the natural transition to the fusion of American and Asian cuisines.
After six months with Flay at Mesa Grill, Yeo had a stellar opportunity to move to the West Coast and work at China Moon, run by the well-known cookbook author and Chinese scholar Barbara Tropp, an assuming woman who spoke fluent Mandarin. Tropp, an American of Jewish heritage, taught Yeo the basic philosophies behind true Asian cooking, further educating her on the adept use of unusual ingredients. At the request of Flay, Yeo moved back to Manhattan in 1993 to take the sous chef position at his new contemporary Spanish restaurant, Bolo. She worked at Bolo for two years, learning the intricacies of this exotic and dynamic Mediterranean cuisine, which was fueled by intense flavors. Nostalgic for the flavors inherent in Asian cuisine, Yeo jumped at the chance to open Hawthorne Lane under chef Anne Gingrass, where she received rave reviews, earning three stars in The San Francisco Chronicle for her inventive fusion cuisine. After three year she realized she had gleaned all the knowledge she could, and set off to explore the Asian continent to experience the culinary culture first hand.
In 2000, Yeo opened the Eclectic American restaurant AZ to immediate rave reviews. Exactly one month after the opening Gael Greene was inspired to write, "Every dish cries out for a camera… before the mouth engages the complex texture and audacious flavors" in her New York Magazine review. The New York Observer, followed by The New York Times, both gave fantastic three star reviews, barely surpassing the raves from the Daily News ("meticulously crafted dishes,") and New York Post. Now at her second endeavor, Pazo, she is using her signature style to re-discover the Mediterranean. Yeo is also putting the finishing touches on her new cookbook, "Cooking from A to Z" to be released nationally in November 2002.