A Few Questions With Chef Alex Chen – Competitor In Gold Medal Plates, Kelowna
We interviewed Chef Alex Chen before he won the Victoria 2017 Gold Medal Plates where he took the gold and checked in with him this week before the finals, the Canadian Culinary Championships that take place this weekend in Kelowna, BC February 2-3, 2018. Chen and the other eleven competing chefs will be aiming for gold as they compete in three events over two days testing their skills, creativity and endurance. Here’s a little update from the original interview, Chef Alex Chen will unveil his Gold Medal Plate dish this weekend and he’ll be joined by Boulevard Chefs Roger Ma and Connor Sperling as well as Executive General Manager, JP Potters.
Tell us a little bit about your restaurant and/or style of cooking.
At Boulevard, I draw upon my personal experiences, my childhood memories of cooking with my family, and of course my training with some amazing chefs throughout the Pacific Rim and West Coast. These experiences all influenced my cooking style, my love of seafood and my desire to always use fresh, local ingredients. I also like to use a very balanced flavour profile, which is something I picked up from cooking with my Mom.
Where do you eat in your city?
I like to eat in Richmond (where I live) because it’s convenient to take the whole family, and there are a wide variety of cuisines available.
What would be your ideal food day?
For breakfast, I would start with the double-baked almond croissant from Thomas Haas Chocolates & Patisserie. It’s one of my favourite things to have when I’m craving a treat. For lunch, I recommend dim sum at Fisherman’s Terrace in Richmond. And for dinner, there’s nothing like Le Crocodile, which is one of my family’s favourite spots for traditional French fare. Chef Michel Jacob is one of the city’s most respected chefs and he consistently serves dishes that I love and admire.
What ingredient do you always have on hand?
There’s a reason the old phrase “salt of the earth” is still in use today: Salt is my most important and favourite ingredient to use in my dishes, whether it’s appetizers, main courses or dessert. I firmly believe it is the most important ingredient in all cuisine and I use it sparingly and in the right measure to enhance the dining experience.
Erin Vickars asked What were their most formative struggles to overcome.
One of the biggest challenges is the transition from a line cook to your first managerial job. You’re managing your buddies from yesterday.
Kendall Ballantine asked Who is your favourite local food producers are (farms, cheese makers, etc)?
One of my favourite suppliers is Joe Salvo, president and founder of Ponderosa Mushroom. We buy all of our mushrooms — wild, cultivated or dry — from him and they are extremely organized, reliable and passionate about their work.
Lucia Higgins asked What is their go to dish when cooking at home and feeling tired or one when inspired?
Depending on the requests that I receive from my wife and kids, there are a number of comfort-food specialties I enjoy cooking at home. My favourites range from a slab of meat slow-cooked to tender perfection on my Big Green Egg (a Hamada-style ceramic charcoal barbecue cooker), to roasted chicken with all the fixings, to meatballs and spaghetti to Hainanese chicken and rice and various styles of traditional Chinese-style soups.
Lesley Saito asked What ingredients in their travels has influenced their cooking style?
My cooking style is primarily based on quality local ingredients and choosing produce at its peak seasonality. Since we’re blessed with pristine water here on the West Coast I also love to showcase our abundance of great quality seafood, whether it’s B.C. spot prawns, or halibut from Alaska all the way down to Oregon.