Chef of the year

Vancouver Magazine - - Restaurant Awards -

Alex Chen Boule­vard Kitchen and Oys­ter Bar, 845 Bur­rard St., boule­vard­van­cou­ver.ca

In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “Suc­cess does not con­sist in never mak­ing mis­takes but in never mak­ing the same one a sec­ond time.” Truer words were never spo­ken about our Chef of the Year, who ran the Gold Medal Plates gaunt­let twice be­fore fi­nally emerg­ing vic­to­ri­ous at this year’s Cana­dian Culi­nary Cham­pi­onships. Alex Chen’s Grand Fi­nale dish was noth­ing short of agas­tro­nomic tour de force. GMP judges praised his par­fait of wild B.C. shell­fish for “putting the en­tire Pa­cific Ocean in atin”—a mas­ter­ful oeu­vre of bal­ance, fi­nesse and flaw­less pre­ci­sion.

He left apres­ti­gious ex­ec­u­tive chef po­si­tion at the Bev­erly Hills Ho­tel to pur­sue his com­pet­i­tive as­pi­ra­tions, lured back to Canada in 2011 when all-know­ing chef Bruno Marti spot­ted his tal­ent. “It was the hard­est thing for me to walk away from such a high-pro­file job. But I’ve al­ways been fas­ci­nated by the emo­tional roller coaster and the art of com­pet­ing,” says Chen.

Yet com­pe­ti­tion alone does not atop-tier chef make. Our judges lauded “the ab­so­lutely Her­culean ef­fort” Chen has put for­ward since open­ing Boule­vard Kitchen and Oys­ter Bar in 2014 “to move a very tra­di­tional ho­tel kitchen for­ward into fresh, ex­cit­ing cook­ing that re­mains grounded in un­yield­ing rigour, clas­si­cal French tech­nique and re­spect for his­tory.” He “ef­fort­lessly brings Asian sen­si­bil­ity, light­ness and nu­ance to his menu in a sub­tle yet clear-eyed way that doesn’t feel for­eign or in­tru­sive.”

He still finds great joy in work­ing dif­fer­ent sta­tions on the line—ac­cord­ing to Chen, “there’s noth­ing like the play­ful ex­cite­ment of Fri­day- and Satur­day-night ser­vice.” Above all else, though, Chen takes pride in build­ing and nur­tur­ing long-stand­ing re­la­tion­ships with both his sup­pli­ers and fel­low chefs, many of whom have been with him since his Bo­cuse d’Or days. “Our [Boule­vard] team has one of the best col­lab­o­ra­tive kitchen en­er­gies that I’ve ever ex­pe­ri­enced dur­ing my 20 years in the in­dus­try. We’re cook­ing from a place of re­spect and peace with our­selves and our cui­sine, and Iwouldn’t trade it for any­thing,” says Chen.

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