The Chef | Anna Chen
When the Michelin Guide came to Toronto this year, foodies and chefs eagerly awaited the announcement to find out who would receive a coveted star or Bib Gourmand recognition from the guide. Unfortunately, when the list was revealed, it was men who dominated the list, with very few restaurants between those with stars and those with Bib Gourmand designation having a woman at the helm. Anna Chen was one of them (and also among one of the only women of colour to be recognized by the guide). Her restaurant, Alma, is a fusion of French, Italian and Hakka Chinese flavours and the short and sweet menu is a testament to her skills — it’s an understatement to say her Michelin recognition is well-deserved.
By Eva Chin, head chef at Avling
I met Anna after reaching out to her about collaborating for Lunar New Year 2021. We put together a takeout menu of main dishes and sides for the holiday through virtual meetings because we collaborated during a very strict period of lockdown. I only got to really cook with Anna together once, when she and her sous chef came to Kojin (where I worked as the chef de cuisine at the time) to try out our Lunar menu together. That was a memorable time, learning about Chef Anna and exchanging our different Chinese backgrounds. I admire how much Chef Anna balances on her plate — running her own restaurant, getting groceries at the food terminal, being a mom — and her food and her space still generate such consistent high level execution. She does it with grace. This recognition is so well-deserved. There is consistency and creativity in her food that continues to make you feel warm and comforted. The experience at Alma is always a good time, and I always feel like I am eating in her home. And as a chef, I admire the balance she weaves between her European training through cooking her heritage. As one of the only women to be recognized by the Michelin guide in Toronto on either the Bib Gourmand list or with a star, it’s inspiring to see her succeed in this way with her Bib Gourmand recognition for Alma. It makes me hopeful for more recognition in the future for our community.
See our full list of Toronto’s most inspiring women of 2022 here.