Quyen Trinh is a graduate of the Escoffier Diploma in Culinary Arts program at the Boulder Campus and owner of Anise-Modern Vietnamese Eatery. As Executive Chef she relies on her strong roots and formal culinary education to run her restaurant, address the desires of local patrons and more recently adjust to the new normal in a post-covid world.
Why did you decide to go to culinary school?
Saigon is Vietnam’s largest city. With a population of almost 9 million, Saigon is not only Vietnam’s financial hub but is also its cultural center with arts, plays, music, and of course culinary excellence. When migrants from all over Vietnam moved to Saigon to find better economic opportunities, they also brought their favorite food with them. Over time, Saigon turned into the mecca of Vietnamese cuisine. As a native of Saigon, I got to sample the best in Vietnamese fare right outside my doors and acquired a love for fine Vietnamese dining. Growing up I was immersed in a multi-generational family involved in the food service business. I helped in my family business and naturally developed expertise with Vietnamese cuisine. In America, I decided to formalize my love for fine dining by obtaining a culinary education.
What made you choose Escoffier?
Before deciding on a culinary school, I spent a lot of time researching. I finally picked Escoffier because it is highly ranked; because of its hands on curriculum; because I have a family and young children and it fit well into my personal schedule; and finally, because its location in Boulder is within commuting distance from my home.
What did you like best about your time at Escoffier?
My favorite course at Escoffier has to be the Farm to Table® Experience. I feel it provides the knowledge that allows chefs to be more imaginative and creative. In fact, in warmer weather, Anise has a vegetable garden on the back patio that we use in preparing our menu. Inspiration derived from this course. I also really enjoyed all the hands-on practical classes at Escoffier.
How do you think your education at Escoffier helped you with your first professional position and beyond?
“With the education I received from Escoffier, I became a lot more confident and was comfortable during all the interviews and in any commercial kitchen setting.”
My first position was with Cherry Hills Country Club. I started as Line Cook and worked my way up to Family Meal, where I became the sole person to create daily meals for the entire Country Club workforce. From there I moved on to Olive and Finch.There I started as a Baker and left as a Bakery Chef.
With her deep-rooted upbringing in the food service industry, a formal, well rounded culinary education that included business acumen and professional experience, Chef Quyen embarked on the journey of her dreams and opened Anise Modern Vietnamese Eatery.
“One of the most important lessons I learned along the way was how to reduce waste in the creation of food – to make sure all the food ingredients are portable and can be used on more than one dish.”
What niche(s) do you think you have carved out with Anise?
Anise is the only Vietnamese restaurant (Vietnamese owned and operated) in Denver that has a full bar with an extensive wine list. We have a long beer list that includes 10 drafts; most from Colorado’s craft scene. At night, our dining room is set with linen towels and tablecloths, enhancing the fine dining experience I have always envisioned. What we have done is elevated the Vietnamese dining experience for those sophisticated weekend diners looking to enjoy a meal with their favorite dates.
Vegan and Vegetarian Dishes
Vietnamese food is fresh and healthy, but most Vietnamese restaurants in Colorado do not have decent vegan selections. They tend to only have one or two token vegetarian dishes, or they scramble to put something together to please that one vegan in a group. At Anise, we take vegan/vegetarian options seriously. They are a stable part of our menu. And because it’s a fixed option on our menu, our vegan/vegetarian dishes are very consistent. Here, vegans and vegetarians can enjoy their favorite dishes by themselves or with their favorite omnivore friends without having to sacrifice taste.
Overcoming the Quick Fix
Though eating Vietnamese is fast becoming one of the coolest and hippest trends in America, most people do not go to Vietnamese restaurants because it’s fun. Most people who crave Vietnamese food address their fix and leave as soon as their meals are done. At Anise it’s different. As a full service restaurant, Anise is a fun place to take care of your fix and have a great time doing it. In fact, we host many fun events at Anise including happy hours, corporate outings, corporate luncheons, birthday celebrations, date nights, and even blind and first dates.
Elevating the Vietnamese Experience
In terms of Vietnamese food, Colorado is dotted with pho restaurants serving mostly the same dishes. Our goal is to introduce the American public to Vietnamese dishes other than pho, that is just as (if not more) tasty. Some of these dishes are Bun Cha Hanoi, Cha Ca La Vong, and Banh Xeo.
Anise provides a sophisticated but authentic Vietnamese dining experience that is currently missing in Colorado.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
“Our customers are our inspiration.”
Anise’s guests are very diverse in age, income level, and geographic area. Some like Anise because we have a vast choice of adult beverages, some like to hang out on our outdoor patio, others like the fact that they can enjoy authentic Vietnamese fare without having to drive too far. Yet, others like Anise because of the more sophisticated dining experience. However, virtually everyone loves Anise because of the excellent food and because Anise is fun. Our own spirits are lifted when we see patrons enjoy their food-and their experience-and we are most happy when we see them return and become regulars.
Are there any trends you notice happening in the industry?
Denver is very lucky to have a lot of high quality restaurants and many really good Vietnamese restaurants. New restaurants must have quality food as a starting point, but sometimes good food alone is not enough. Restaurants must have more creative and imaginative menus. They have to fill the void, that niche, that makes them stand out. Anise is one of those new restaurants.
What advice do you have for current Escoffier students?
Don’t pick a culinary career just as a way to make money. The work is hard; the hours are long; and beginner wages are low. You must really love the culinary or pastry arts. You have to want to make this a career and you have to have pride in everything you do; even when you first start out. Put your heart into everything you do and it will show; and you will be successful.
As restaurants around the country begin to reopen with responses to a more sanitized environment in the wake of Coronavirus, Anise is following suit. Read how Chef Quyen is addressing the health and safety of her customers and staff.
Anise Modern Vietnamese Eatery is located at 865 N. Lincoln Street, Denver, CO 80203 303-830-3934 I [email protected]