Understated finesse and precision. Classical French training. Tireless dedication to both craft and time-honoured family traditions. A true taste for high-pressure culinary competitions. These are just some of the ingredients that have helped write a recipe for success for Alex Chen.
Chen carries with him an impressive pedigree of culinary success, from his time at the helm of the world-renowned Beverly Hills Hotel and Polo Lounge, to his roles at the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto and the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago, to his top-ten finish as the Canadian representative at the prestigious Bocuse d’or in Lyon, France in 2013 and his most recent win at the Gold Medal Plates in Victoria in 2015.
And while Chen boasts more than a decade of experience at some of the most acclaimed and revered hotel properties across North America, Boulevard marks the first occasion that he has shepherded the opening of a restaurant from inception through construction to rollout.
It’s been a homecoming for Chen since opening Boulevard in 2014. Vancouver is where he got his first taste of — and respect for — the restaurant industry while working as a dishwasher and busboy after emigrating with his family from Malaysia at the age of 13. It’s where he developed his affinity for the unique bounty of fresh produce, proteins and seafood available year-round from local farms, fields and fisheries. It’s where he apprenticed under renowned chefs and culinary pioneers such as Robert Sulatycky and Bruno Marti.
Vancouver is also where he and his wife Elizabeth raise their two children and try to instill in them the same respect for cultural touchstones and time-honoured traditions — for instance, the abundance of love and care that go into preparing and serving food for family and loved ones — that was fostered in Alex as a young child in his mother’s kitchen.
“Home is where I often create my best work. When you’re cooking for friends, family or loved ones in your own kitchen, that is when you put in the most energy, because there is no pressure or any time constraint — you just infuse the best flavor into that dish, present it at the right moment and show that it all comes from a moment of purity and love,” says Chen.