Hometown Hero

Alex Chen’s culinary vision is a fusion of Asian family tradition, classical French technique and training, blended with an artful hint of casual West Coast flair.

Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar’s opening in July 2014 marked Chen’s return to Vancouver after his impressive top-ten finish at Bocuse d’Or culinary competition in Lyon, France, in 2013. In 2015, Chen became the regional champion at the 10th annual Gold Medal Plates competition in Victoria, and represented B.C. at the Canadian Culinary Championships in 2016.

The world’s great chefs take food and ingredients as their paint and canvas. While Alex Chen, executive chef at downtown Vancouver’s Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar, is recognized internationally as a culinary Rembrandt, for him, his career, his passion, his art, go beyond capturing tastebuds.

“Whether it’s a piece of advice, mentorship or a collaborative experience, I want to know that I’ve had an impact on my colleague’s lives and that they walked away feeling positive and empowered in their careers,” says the culinary star.

Mentorship and the personal camaraderie of kitchen culture has a special place in Chen’s heart largely because his earliest teachers were those closest to him — his mom and aunts.

“An integral part of Chinese culture is looking forward to getting everyone together and sharing meals,” says the Mongolian native, remembering the huge family gatherings during the holidays.

From his native influences to adult life in the West, Chen has masterfully blended the best of both worlds. “Respect the classics, embrace the new,” he says, a philosophy that earned him a top-ten finish at the 2013 Bocuse d’Or culinary championship, coined the Olympics of cooking.

“Preparation comes with sacrifice, and in order to compete, I quit one of the best jobs I’ve had in my career, moved my entire family back to Canada after being gone for 11 years, and started all over,” he says. But the challenges brought their rewards.

“I like to think of every achievement as only the beginning. It’s like climbing up a mountain, and every step brings you closer to your ultimate goal.”

Text by Lindsay Wallace  Translated by Zhao Wen