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An Asian woman in a chef’s uniform standing in front of a counter crowded with cooking equipment and a baking sheet of perfect pink-and-white bonbons.
Jessica Wang and her bonbons at her commissary kitchen.

The ‘Dessert Omakase’ Chef Behind Seattle’s Most Coveted Chocolate Bonbons

Jessica Wang is on a mission to bring the future of dessert to Seattle

Harry Cheadle is the editor of Eater Seattle.

Jessica Wang is the type of person who decides at 25 to chase her dream of becoming a chef and enrolls at the Ferrandi culinary school in Paris — despite not speaking a word of French. She’s the type of person who still wears her impeccably white Ferrandi chef’s jacket when she hand-tempers the chocolate shells for her famous bonbons at an unassuming commissary kitchen in Georgetown. She’s the type of person who, when she slices into one of her bone marrow and caramel bonbons, first heats her knife with a blowtorch to get the cleanest possible cut. That’s when you get to see what all her work is for: Inside the impressively thin, impressively shiny shell is a marbled black and brown interior that’s almost otherworldly — reminiscent of a satellite photo of the planet Jupiter and its roiling, gaseous clouds. And what’s that stripe in the middle? Black cocoa butter, she says.

“I’m really extra,” Wang says. That could describe her, or her bonbons, or her “dessert omakase” pop-ups, or the overall vibe of her one-woman business Hédonisme, which aims to drag Seattle kicking and screaming into the future of dessert.

As an example of what that future looks like, her last pop-up menu included an ode to the classic New York bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwich, only the egg and bacon was guanciale ice cream and custard, while the “cheese” was a powder served on the side. Her bonbons, which have the sheen of Infinity Stones, contain flavors like porcini mushrooms, or foie gras, or black garlic and balsamic vinegar, a choice that you might question until you bite into one and get the slightly sweet acid of the vinegar and the umami undertones of the garlic. The unexpected ingredients are part of the point. “There’s mushrooms in here? Holy shit!” is the reaction that Wang is going for.

A bonbon sliced in half to reveal a marbled brown-and-black interior.
A bone marrow and caramel bonbon.
Brooke Fitts

Wang grew up in Seattle but has a level of open, naked ambition you don’t see much of in these laid-back parts; even the deeply ambitious chefs usually at least pretend to be chill.

Wang has no chill. “She has the energy of a Duracell battery,” says Bill Jeong, the co-owner of Paju, which has hosted her pop-ups. “She will not stop or does not know how to stop.”

Between bonbons and recipe testing and visiting local farms to source ingredients, she can work 20-hour days, she says. Sometimes she’s in the commissary kitchen until three in the morning. At low points, she’ll share some of the stress she’s experiencing on Instagram stories, prompting her customers to write her notes in their orders like, Chef, I hope you’re sleeping, or please eat.

“Jess is super intense,” Kelly Van Arsdale of local chocolate maker Spinnaker tells Eater Seattle. “But I also think that’s what’s great about her. She’s unapologetically herself all the time and to do everything she’s doing would likely make anyone go a little nutters.”

A chef uses a scraper to scrape excess chocolate off of a sheet of dome-shaped molds.
Wang making her bonbon shells.
Brooke Fitts
A chef drips excess chocolate from a sheet of dome-shaped molds into a tray of liquid chocolate.
Wang making her bonbon shells.
Brooke Fitts

After culinary school, Wang went from Paris to New York, where she worked for big-deal restaurants Aureole NY and Maialino. Then COVID hit and “everybody lost their jobs,” she says. Hedonisme came into existence in September 2020, when Wang did her first pop-up at Capitol Hill’s Violet — it was “an opportunity to create what I wanted to create and just see if there was a market here,” she says. “And there kind of was.” Wang moved back to Seattle partially for family reasons, and partially because “this market is very undersaturated for what I do.”

Initially, she was focused on her pop-up and the bonbons were merely take-home gifts for guests. After her move to Seattle, Wang says she visited more than two dozen establishments in the area with Hédonisme sample menus and bonbons in hand, in search of a host restaurant. She didn’t find any takers until she happened to drive by Paju, in Queen Anne. “I turned into Chase Bank, put my emergency lights on, and then I ran across [the street] and I’m like, ‘Hi, I’m Jess, here’s my menu. I want to do a pop-up!’”

Paju’s Jeong tells Eater Seattle he said yes to her because years earlier, he’d been in the same position, a young chef on the make hoping to find a restaurant who would give him space for his pop-up. “She reminded me of myself,” Jeong says.

Rows of blue bonbons with a yellow heart in the middle.
Wang’s bonbons.
Brooke Fitts
Rows of white bonbons decorated with a faint violet floral pattern.
Wang’s bonbons.
Brooke Fitts

Wang has done five pop-up dinners since that first meeting, each with its own unique menu, and the bonbons have taken off as much more than a take-home gift. She offers them in seasonal collections (six bonbons is $26), which typically sell out in a matter of days or hours. During the 2023 holiday season, she “oversold” and had to make roughly 1,200 boxes all by herself.

Wang hopes to eventually own a chocolate shop that produces the bonbons and has a small dining room where she can host her high-end dessert dinner (in that dream, the dining space would connect to the shop via a speakeasy-style secret door). The vision includes a school, too, where Wang could teach the next generation of meticulous pastry chefs. “This is something I can do when I’m young. This is something that I can’t do when I’m 60,” she says. “I want to create a school and I want to teach.”

Wang is of course the type of person who sketches her future out decades in advance, then makes that sketch, improbably, into a reality. She says she wanted to do a dessert omakase menu when she was 14, and a decade and a half later, she actually did it. She’s looking for a space for a brick-and-mortar location now, and will probably wind up finding the perfect spot, because she’s always aiming for perfection. Why settle?

“Life is really short,” she says. “Why am I going to waste my time?”