Chef of the Year 2018: Alex Chen

Chef Alex Chen employs precision and creativity in equal measure.

Chef Alex Chen employs precision and creativity in equal measure.

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 a gastronomic tour de force. GMP judges praised his parfait of wild B.C. shellfish for “putting the entire Pacific Ocean in a tin”—a masterful oeuvre of balance, finesse and flawless precision.

He left a prestigious 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 a top-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 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 I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” says Chen.

Restaurant Awards 2018 ▸▸▸