Joanne Ponvanit started out her professional career with law school before turning to the sweeter side of life, getting a degree in pastry arts from the Kitchen Academy in Hollywood, CA. She then spent a decade training and working with renowned chefs such as Rick Bayless at Red O, Joseph Antonishek at Minx Restaurant & Lounge, and Top Chef alum Alex Reznik at Luxe City Center Hotel in downtown Los Angeles before joining Bon Appétit Management Company at The Getty in Los Angeles in 2015.
Although she’s left behind the practice of law, Joanne brings those analytical skills to her approach to desserts, researching ingredients and techniques while considering how best to create a connection with guests through texture, color, and flavor. With art and exhibitions from both the Getty Villa and the Getty Center to inspire her, she views her dishes as a form of “living art.” That approach informs her philosophy of balancing color, texture, temperature, and flavor in unexpected ways in each dish. In addition to creating seasonal dessert menus for the Café at the Getty Villa and The Restaurant at the Getty Center, Joanne oversees numerous catering menus for special events throughout the year.
Who and what inspired you to become a chef?
As a child, while the boys got to run around, the girls were sent to the kitchen to help my grandmother. She cooked everything traditionally: making stock from scratch, focusing on ingredients. I didn’t appreciate it at the time — I thought it was unfair that I had to skim the stock pot or trim the vegetables — but after attending culinary school, I realized her processes were intentional to make each ingredient sing. My grandmother put her heart into every dish she made and that really stuck with me.
What food trend are you most excited about right now?
There is a such a big focus on health, particularly in Los Angeles, whether it’s vegan or made without gluten. I love the challenge of making desserts that are satisfying and feed guests in a way that feels healthy and good rather than heavy. There are so many exciting ingredients out there to experiment with, like nut flours and non-dairy alternatives, while trying to maintain the textures people expect from traditional desserts.
What’s one thing everyone should know about Bon Appétit?
We really walk the talk! It feels like phrases like “sustainable” and “farm to table” are overused these days, often without the hard work and commitment behind them. Not a lot of people understand how much goes into pushing for a more sustainable food system, and it makes me proud every day to be a part of a team that is passionate about seasonality, supporting our local food community, and emphasizing a healthier, more sustainable way of eating. Working with like-minded people who appreciate seasonal ingredients and want to make connections to their food is why I’m excited to go to work each day. Of course, the views driving down the Pacific Coast Highway help, too!