Last week, Bay Area Bites dropped the news that chef Alex Ong has decided to leave ~BETELNUT~ after 12 years there. I had a chance to catch up with chef Ong while at CUESA’s Summer Celebration on Sunday, and he mentioned his decision to depart was not tied to the Betelnut-Hutong transformation that flopped earlier this year. It ends up he was planning to depart Betelnut even before the Hutong concept came to be, but stayed on to help the Real Restaurants team develop it and see it through.
Ong is the father of two, and tells me he is eager for the next step in his career path, which means being his own boss. He doesn’t have anything concrete lined up at the moment, but plans on doing some consulting and other projects until his next move takes shape. I know I am not alone in mourning the (hopefully only temporary) loss of his soulful cooking on our dining circuit. He’s a talented chef who rocks the flavor spectrum.
As previously reported in tablehopper, Betelnut has brought on chef de cuisine Mario Tolentino, who will now be taking over for Ong. (I look forward to trying his food soon!)
Chef Alex Ong, giving us a cryptic smile for now. Photo by Brooke Gray Photography.