From the Experts: Aliya LeeKong, Investment banking to celebrity chef

Aliya is one of those people who are driven by passion and tenacity. Listen to how she went from investment banking to getting an MBA from Columbia Business School to becoming one of the top chefs of our time.  She has published an award-winning cookbook, runs a few startups, and is a mother of 2 girls. My fav part is listening to her point of view on how Covid has changed the food industry.

Bonus...she is sharing her End of Summer Berry "Bread" pudding recipe with us, see below!


Min Santandrea
Founder, SantM

End of Summer Berry “Bread” Pudding by Aliya

Yields 1 9-inch cake pan

Om Ali is a Lebanese dessert that layers phyllo dough with different nuts, dried fruits, coconut, and a custard base (ridiculously delicious) and has always seemed to me like a Middle Eastern version of bread pudding.  At any given point, I tend to have a pack of phyllo sitting in my freezer more often than I have stale bread on hand, so I was inspired to put my own seasonal spin on it.  This is now my signature bread pudding, and it’s just as rewarding though slightly more delicate and less carb-heavy than the traditional kind.  It’s rich, custardy, and I just love the combination of vanilla and berries.  I’m big on entertaining with this dessert because it looks beautiful, is elegantly casual, and still really easy to throw together.  Served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, you’ll be hard-pressed to put that spoon down.


8 sheets phyllo dough

1 stick unsalted butter, melted or (gasp) butter-flavored cooking spray

2 cups milk

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup granulated sugar

1 vanilla bean, split and scraped

1 teaspoon almond extract

pinch salt

2 large eggs, beaten, at room temperature

2 cups mixed berries 

Preheat the oven to 375 F.  

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and grease the paper.  Lay 1 sheet of phyllo on top and brush with melted butter or spray with cooking spray.  Lay another on top and repeat the process until all 8 sheets are layered and buttered.  You don’t have to be too dainty here since they will be broken up for the custard.  Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown, remove and let cool.

In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, heavy cream, sugar, vanilla bean, and almond extract and bring up to a strong simmer.   Be careful because it can boil over really easily (has happened to me too many times to count)! Remove from the heat and let steep 10 minutes.

Ladle a bit of the hot milk mixture into the beaten eggs and whisk.  You want to slowly bring the eggs up to temperature.  Keep adding the hot milk, a little bit at a time, whisking in between each addition until the milk and eggs are thoroughly combined.