A lover of French food since her childhood in Japan, Chika Tillman studied Classic Culinary Arts at The French Culinary Institute at night while working as a banker on Wall Street during the day. She joined the Gramercy Tavern’s opening team in 1994, arriving on her first day to observe dinner service from the kitchen in a suit and heels. After working at restaurants such as The Ritz-Carlton and Seeger’s—at every station on the line—she went on to become Executive Pastry Chef at Restaurant Bid in Sotheby’s in 2001.
Two years later, with a vision to provide a four-star dessert experience in an affordable and casual setting, she and husband Don Tillman opened ChikaLicious Dessert Bar in New York’s East Village. With no waiters, the two serve their three-course prix-fix dessert menu, with wine pairings, directly to customers. In 2007, they opened ChikaLicious Dessert Club to sell desserts for takeout. ChikaLicous is now in Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo, Bangkok, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the Bay Area in California.