In Memoriam: Chef King Phojanakong

The former Chef-Instructor at ICE’s New York campus tragically passed away of a rare disease

King Phojanakong, chef and owner of the lauded Kuma Inn in New York, and former ICE Chef-Instructor, sadly passed away after a battle with a rare disease, Acanthamoeba, in which an ameba causes severe infections in the central nervous system. 

A New York City native, Chef King Phojanakong's cooking influences began at home with his Filipino mother and Thai father. Childhood summers spent in the Philippines furthered Chef King’s interest in the culinary world and instilled the importance of community and culture.

Upon graduating from The Culinary Institute of America, Chef King worked with Alex Lee and Daniel Boulud at Restaurant Daniel and was part of the opening team at David Bouley’s Danube.

In 2003, Chef King opened Kuma Inn on New York’s Lower East Side, where he served Filipino and Southeast Asian food for more than 15 years. King created the award-winning Bronx Hot Sauce, which is made from peppers grown in the borough’s community gardens and inspired Small Axe Peppers Hot Sauce, which partners with community gardens in 10 cities.

He also made the recipe for The Bronx Salad, an initiative with The Institute for Family Health, and consulted for Campbell’s Soup Company, San Miguel Produce, The United Soybean Board and The Culinary Institute of America. He has appeared on “Cutthroat Kitchen,” “The Rachael Ray Show,” Cooking Channel’s “Food(ography),” and “Mike Colameco’s Real Food.”

In 2017, Chef King started teaching at ICE’s New York campus, a time in his career when he felt compelled to give back.

“We teach and learn everyday in the kitchen — I just wanted to do it in a more formal setting where everyone is on the same page sharing the same passion,” he said. 

"The staff and I at ICE were shocked and saddened to hear about Chef King's passing," says ICE's Chairman and CEO, Rick Smilow. "He was a talented chef, a dedicated father, and in our kitchen-classrooms, emanated a high degree of friendly wisdom that helped make him a highly regarded teacher here at ICE."

Our deepest condolences go out to Chef King's family during this time.

Chef King's Recipes from his time at ICE:

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