Four Seasons Hotel One Dalton Street, Boston
- 1 Dalton Street, Boston, Massachusetts, 02115, USA
Four Seasons Tenure
- Since 2002
- First Four Seasons Assignment: Sous Chef, Four Seasons Resort Hualalai
- Four Seasons Resort Hualalai; Four Seasons Hotel Silicon Valley at East Palo Alto; Four Seasons Hotel Seattle; Four Seasons Resort Hualalai; Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows, Kohala Coast, Hawaii; Daizen Okazuya, Kamuela, Hawaii; Hyatt Regency, Waikoloa, Hawaii; Pacific Beach Hotel, Honolulu, Hawaii
- Honolulu, Hawaii, USA
- Culinary Arts Associates Degree, Kapiolani Community College, Hawaii
“If a chef tells you they’re not competitive, they’re not telling the truth,” says Ellis Chong, reflecting on one of the motivations he brings to the kitchen as Executive Chef of Four Seasons Hotel One Dalton Street, Boston.
Of course, there are many more. The first thing Chong did upon arriving in Boston was get out and check out the scene. What did he discover? “There is a lot of creativity. Everyone here is trying to push the envelope to see how far they can go. That motivates me to challenge myself. I’m a chef: When I see something good, I try to do better.”
The Hotel offers several opportunities for Chong to do just that. One + One Restaurant, a chic destination with views over Dalton Street, allows him to put forward an expressive breakfast menu, with a nice balance between signature dishes and classics that shapes the restaurant as the perfect spot for a “power” business breakfast, or a leisurely start to the day. One floor down on street level, Trifecta Lobby Bar will be a magnet for city slickers with the coolest cocktails in town and lunch and dinner offerings for Chong to create and innovate. “Don't expect big bowls of pasta there,” he says. “Instead, we’re trying new things with plating and the food, keeping things simple, sleek and modern. That’s what gets customers excited these days.”
Chong also oversees room service, which offers its own distinct breakfast menu, and the Hotel’s banquet operation served from its own kitchen. Like the main kitchen, it’s quite a space. “We have lots of room and the Ferrari of equipment!” he says, his voice ringing with delight as he details the top-of-line gear. “Our kitchen designer was a former chef working with a generous budget. We have what everybody wants to be using today.”
Chong also has an amazing range of product to work with, with suppliers tapping greater New England to the north, the Hudson Valley to the south, and the depths of the Atlantic to the east. “We’re not going to be crossing the country to buy cheese, I can tell you that,” he says with a laugh, noting that emphasizing all things local is key to drawing local clientele. “We’re here to serve hospitality. Our guests come and go in rain and snow, so we need to be out there meeting and greeting them, letting them know who our chefs are and what products we’re using. It just makes sense.”
Born and raised on the island of Oahu in Hawaii, Chong traces the roots of his culinary career to “an accident.” “I was on a high school field trip, and we went to a hotel that was doing a food show with all the culinary schools and hotels competing. I looked around and thought it was interesting, so I started applying to fast-food places as a fry cook.”
From those grease-splattered beginnings, Chong moved onto culinary school and Japanese restaurants on Oahu, and then to The Big Island where he helped open a Hyatt and discovered Italian cuisine. Later, a former colleague suggested Chong for a spot at the Four Seasons in Hualalai; he arrived as a Sous Chef at Beach Tree restaurant in 2002.
“When I started with Four Seasons, they asked if I was willing to relocated and why? I said ‘Yes – because I want to get more knowledgeable, work with other ethnicities, and see how they do things and manage people on the mainland.’ They were all over that.”
Eventually, Chong got his opportunity: First as a Sous Chef at Four Seasons address in Silicon Valley, then as opening Banquet Chef in Seattle. On his last day in Hualalai, he told his General Manager he didn’t know what to expect. “He told me it didn’t matter: ‘The only thing you can do is to do a great job. It’s not the hours you put in; it’s what you do with those hours.’ I’ve always remembered that.”
Now right at home in Boston, Chong has been “pleasantly surprised” by the breadth of Asian influences he finds on the city’s dining scene, as well as by the warmth he feels from the culinary community. He is also thrilled by opportunities for biking in the city.
“That’s my other passion,” he enthuses. “Every place I’ve worked, I’ve always joined a bike club so I can have something that’s completely separate from the hotel. Balance is so important. When I’m not in the kitchen, I just like to get on my bike and go.”