Alex Chen’s culinary vision is an inspired recipe of family tradition, classical technique and training and an artful infusion of casual West Coast flair and creative hints of his international influences.
Boulevard’s opening in July 2014 marked Alex’s official return to his hometown of Vancouver after charting a top-10 finish representing Canada at the prestigious Bocuse d’Or culinary competition in Lyon, France in 2013. Alex previously spent six years as the executive chef of the legendary Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel and held the roles of senior sous chef at the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago and chef de cuisine at the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto. In 2015, Alex set the gold standard at the 10th annual Gold Medal Plates competition in Victoria, winning the title of regional champion and the honour of representing B.C. at the Canadian Culinary Championships in Kelowna in February of 2016.
From his childhood roots in Malaysia to his apprenticeship under Chef Robert Sulatycky at the Wedgewood Hotel in Vancouver to his time in California, the Pacific Rim and West Coast regions have helped form the basis for Alex’s innovative signature style, as well as his love for seafood. So, too, has his emphasis on sourcing the best fresh, local and in-season ingredients to accent his dishes.
“I’m constantly inspired by the notion of generating a conversation about a dish or the enjoyment that can be had when someone takes that first bite and not only does it deliver flavour but rises up to exceed expectations,” says Alex. “I think it’s important that when a guest visits Boulevard that they experience lasting impressions. At Boulevard, we invite them to ask questions and be engaged.”
Following Georges Auguste Escoffier’s Brigade de Cuisine system of kitchen hierarchy, Chef de Cuisine Roger Ma is the Boulevard general, second in command to only Executive Chef Alex Chen’s commander in chief. And there’s no doubt Roger boasts the necessary experience, expertise and savvy to execute a successful back-of-house battle plan.
Roger began his career in the industry by helping to launch Fifty Two 80 Bistro & Bar at the Four Seasons Resort Whistler in 2004. From there, Roger became an integral part of the kitchen engine that drove a number of restaurants in esteemed chef Daniel Boulud’s empire.
In 2006, Roger rose in the ranks at Boulud's flagship restaurant, Daniel in New York, from chef de partie to banquet sous chef to sous chef. After six years Roger took the role of corporate sous chef in Boulud’s Dinex Group and moved on to help open Café Boulud and dBar at the Four Seasons Toronto as well as Maison Boulud at the Ritz Carlton in Montreal before returning to his hometown of Vancouver. Roger is no stranger to accolades either, having claimed the top prize at the 2015 Vancouver Aquarium Ocean Wise™ Chowder Chowdown from a field of 14 chefs.
While both Roger and Alex hail from Vancouver, Boulevard marks only the second time that they have blended their unique talents.
“It’s extremely exciting to be able to work with Alex again” says Roger. “While the menu has a definite West Coast feel, there is also plenty of global inspiration — things that have been influenced by our travels and personal tastes.”
The Front of House is front and centre for Boulevard Maître d’ Brian Hopkins. It’s where he and his team greet guests and forge that all-important first impression — and Brian never forgets how vital that job is.
“The most important thing is to have your team truly believe in what you’re creating and in your service philosophy,” says Brian. “It’s so important to make guests feel welcome. They have to believe in you. They’re going to ask you for recommendations about a good portion of their evening out, so you have to establish that trust. You have to be professional without being standoffish, and warm and sincere without being casual or aloof. It’s a delicate balance.”
If there’s ever been a virtuoso of exemplary service, it’s Brian. A true pioneer of table-side service with a smile and a testament to the power of a positive attitude, at whatever high-profile establishment Brian has been at the helm, accolades have soon followed — from his tenures in Toronto and Los Angeles, to launching Vancouver’s critically acclaimed West Restaurant in 2000, to heading up operations at CinCin Ristorante + Bar and at Whistler’s lauded Araxi, Brian has earned a stellar reputation for providing top-shelf service.
One of three accredited sommeliers on the front-of-house management team at Boulevard, Brian was inducted into the B.C. Restaurant Hall of Fame in 2010 and also singled out for the Premier Crew Designation at the 25th annual edition of the Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards in 2014.
As much as Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar prides itself on plating exceptionally fresh, locally sourced and seafood-focused cuisine, it also places a premium on providing each guest with an unparalleled tableside experience, and at the junction of those two avenues lies Nicholas Bertoia’s role as service manager.
An original front-of-house crew member at Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar when it first opened in summer 2014, Nicholas works closely with Maître d’ Brian Hopkins to help create lasting impressions and exceed the expectations of each and every guest.
“There’s nothing better than being able to supersede a guest’s expectations and provide them with a truly incredible experience,” says Nicholas. “From the smile on someone’s face, to the way they shake your hand or say thank you when they leave the restaurant, these are the reasons I’m in this business.”
Prior to joining the team at Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar, Nicholas held the position of senior service manager at Cactus Club Café before taking on the role of general manager at Red Card Sports Bar + Eatery at the Moda Hotel in Vancouver.
Pastry Chef Kenta Takahashi not only brings the requisite traditional French panache to the line at Boulevard, but his Japanese heritage also lends a modern and sophisticated twist to each exquisite dessert he creates.
An award-winning pastry chef in his home country, Kenta worked in a number of restaurants in Tokyo and Kanagawa, Japan before coming to Vancouver and continuing to hone his craft under renowned pâtissier and chocolatier Thierry Busset. Armed with the discerning eye of a true artist and the classic skill and training of a chef, Kenta oversees Boulevard’s menu of tantalizing desserts as well as its varieties of flaky pastries and fresh-baked breads created in-house each day.
Since joining the Boulevard kitchen, where he oversees a talented team of pastry cooks, Kenta credits Executive Chef Alex Chen’s ability to infuse both plate and palate with an elegant-yet-understated flair as a constant source of culinary inspiration.
“Alex is extremely talented and passionate and each dish he creates has big impact but is also very delicate in terms of presentation and taste,” says Kenta. “I’m excited to bring my talents to a team that has an uncompromising standard of excellence and to blend my creativity with the restaurant’s classic, signature style.”
Born and raised in Quebec, JS (Jean-Sebastien) Dupuis realized a long-time dream of living and working in BC in 1999 when he set down roots in Whistler and became a mainstay in the resort town’s hospitality scene for the next decade.
He credits the Tom Cruise movie Cocktail for stirring up an abiding fascination with spirits and inspiring in him a thirst to be a consummate host and entertainer while holding court behind the pine. While attending McGill University, JS took on his first bartending job at The Ceileidh Pub in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue — the local watering hole for his alma mater — and never looked back.
In Whistler, he held the roles of Bar Manager and Beverage Director at Garfinkel’s and Bearfoot Bistro, respectively, until heading south to Vancouver in 2011. Here JS oversaw operations of the beverage program at Tableau Bar Bistro and went on to open Homer St Café and Bar as Bar Manager before taking on a sales and promotions role with Charton Hobbs Wine & Spirits in 2014.
“Boulevard has a well-established reputation thanks to its amazing food, wine and bar programs and a first-rate team of industry talent behind them. At Boulevard, I have the luxury of access to top-shelf products, which gives me carte blanche to create unique cocktails and elevate the experience of each guest,” says JS, who was awarded the title of ‘BC’s Most Imaginative Bartender’ by Bombay Sapphire in 2013.