’Top Chef’ Anita Lo Warms Up Montreal Fest With $125 Scallops
Ever since Anita Lo out-cooked Mario Batali on the “Iron Chef America” and appeared as a contestant on “Top Chef,” food enthusiasts have been flocking to her Manhattan restaurant, Annisa.
“’Top Chef’ was a breakthrough for me,” said Lo at the restaurant’s bar. “I now get recognized on the streets.”
Known for country-hopping dishes such as wild-boar belly with eel or South African lamb, Lo is joining more than 50 women winemakers and guest chefs who will serve up their favorites at Montreal’s best restaurants during the annual High Lights Festival that runs through Feb. 27.
“We wanted to choose a chef who has great personality and who has a signature dish and is well-renowned in North America. And I think she will blend well with the others,” Jean-Francois Demers, a spokesman and special adviser to the festival, said by phone.
“Celebrating Women” is the theme of the 12th annual winter party during the city’s coldest month. Music performers include French actor and vocalist Carole Bouquet, jazz singer Lizz Wright and Haiti-born opera singer Marie-Josee Lord.
Anne-Sophie Pic, the three Michelin-star chef of La Maison Pic in Valence, France, is the honorary chairman of the festival’s wine and dine experience, sponsored by Air France.
Participating chefs include Mexican-Cuban fusion expert Monica Patino; San Francisco-based pastry wizard Elizabeth Faulkner; Aurora Mazzucchelli of the Michelin-starred Ristorante Marconi near Bologna, Italy; Claudia Schroter of Takuin Cologne, Germany; and Vancouver-based Lisa Yu of Boneta.
More Women Needed
“I still think the culinary industry has a long way to go,” said Lo. “If you look at the percentage of female chef-owners to male chef-owners, New York City is particularly bad, I think. If you look at women who are doing fine dining, that percentage is even smaller.”
Lo will cook for two nights at Montreal’s Koko Restaurant & Bar, a stylish newcomer, in the chic Opus Hotel. She will serve a $126 five-course tasting menu that includes sashimi tuna with mentaiko mushrooms and radishes; sea urchin with lotus root; grilled sea scallops, sweet miso and bacon; and her signature lamb with South African flavors and warm poppy-seed bread-and- butter pudding with lemon curd.
“I bring in influences from all over the world,” she said. “I’m constantly trying to expand my knowledge of the world. My food is adventurous.”
Tips From Mongolia
Trained at Paris’s famed Ecole Ritz-Escoffier, where she graduated first in her class with honors, Lo started Annisa (which means “women” in Arabic) in 2000. After its launch, Food & Wine magazine named her one of the 10 best new chefs in America the following year.
A fire destroyed the restaurant in 2009. While it was rebuilt, she traveled to Mongolia and Egypt to expand her culinary knowledge. She was chosen to appear on the first season of Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters” and finished fourth out of 24 cooks.
Lo said she squeezes charity work into her schedule regularly, donating her cooking and time to City Harvest charity tastings. She has also donated money to Share, a New York-based nonprofit that provides a support network for women who have survived breast and ovarian cancer.
“As a chef and restaurant owner, you have a forum and there’s a certain amount of privilege in that, and I think with that privilege comes responsibility,” Lo said.
(The 12th annual Montreal High Lights Festival “Celebrating Women” runs through Feb. 27. Information: http://www.montrealenlumiere.com/volets/table/en_bref_en.aspx or +1-855-864-3737)
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff in New York at email@example.com.