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.”
Bobby Milheron first discovered his passion for the kitchen on the East Coast, where he graduated from The Culinary Institute of Canada and quickly found a home on the back-of-house brigades at restaurants in New England and Nova Scotia before heading west and joining the team under Chef Quang Dang at Vancouver’s Diva at the Met in 2008.
After stops on the line at Nu Restaurant and La Brasserie, he was reunited with Dang as sous chef at West Restaurant in 2012, where he spent two more years sharpening his skills and honing his craft before joining the opening team at Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar as senior sous chef in 2014 and went on to help Executive Chef Alex Chen and team climb to the top of the podium at the 10th annual Gold Medal Plates regional culinary competition in Victoria in 2015.
A highly driven and creative talent, Bobby is an ardent supporter of local and peak-of-season ingredients and endeavours to cultivate lasting relationships with farmers, ranchers, foragers and fishermen in his own backyard as he provides guests with fare that is informed and defined by the bounty of fresh ingredients available to chefs working in the Pacific Northwest.
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.
For Isaac Olivier, plying his trade in the often demanding and high-stakes world of the hospitality industry is more than just a calling —it’s a true, homespun family tradition.
When the Vancouver native first launched his career at Water St. Café in 2006, he followed in the footsteps of no less than four siblings, three cousins and an aunt who had also worked in a variety of roles at the Gastown restaurant. He quickly developed an affinity for the trade and rose through the ranks in a variety of roles ranging from busboy to server, pastry prep, line cook and eventually manager. After a six-year tour of duty, he moved on to take on a managerial role at Hawksworth for two years before joining an accomplished front-of-house family at Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar.
Isaac brings to Boulevard not only his extensive foundation, innate knowledge and affinity for the subtle and elegant touches of fine dining but a commitment to supporting his fellow staff and continuing to foster the unique brand of exceptional service that greets each of Boulevard’s guests on a daily basis.
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.”