Feast Portland Interviews

Q&A: Anita Lo

The cooking icon and Michelin-starred chef gives us the lowdown on Asian fusion done right and the future of New York dining trends.

By Benjamin Tepler September 15, 2012

Feast Portland, one of the country's most original food festivals, lands in the Rose City September 20–23. To count down to the event, read Eat Beat's daily interviews with seven of the great food thinkers coming to participate in this illustrious culinary throw-down—and where to catch them.

Q: Fusion still has a bad name—hackneyed food, dissonant flavors—yet your Michelin-starred restaurant Annisa has been the model of boundary-blurring cooking for over a decade. What separates harmonious cross-pollination from an international train-wreck? 

A: Taste. Food needs to be combined intelligently with a focus on the main ingredient (without overaccessorizing) and with the end goal of making something delicious.

It took you nearly 20 years to get your first book, Cooking Without Borders, published.  Who is your cookbook hero? What’s the one cookbook you can’t live without?

My cookbook hero might be Patricia Wells. I loved reading about her France back when I started in this industry. But I can’t live without The Joy of Cooking. It has everything in it. How to cook an armadillo? Check.

For decades, you’ve cooked your way through some of New York City’s biggest food revolutions. Casual/communal/unfussy cuisine is “in” right now. Do you see a resurrection of fine dining in the near future?

Certainly. Let’s hope the economy continues to recover. With that, I think we’ll see a resurgence of fine dining.

You’ve been pegged as an Asian cuisine savant, yet your training is rigorously French. When you’re not on the job, what are you eating?

I eat a lot of Italian; it’s one of my go-to comfort foods. But I eat all cuisines.

Who, past or present, would you love to cook next to?

Anyone who can teach me something new and who is passionate about eating.

What’s on your must-eat list in Portland?

I am very excited to eat at Lincoln with Jenn Louis. I am going to Le Pigeon. If I can fit in a dinner at Beast, I’d be thrilled. We have Andy Ricker here in New York, but I’d still like to try some of his other places for lunch. I wish I was staying longer…

Bon Appétit Presents Feast Portland (feastportland.com) is a region-defining celebration of everything that makes Portland awesome, Sept 2023. All proceeds benefit hunger relief organizations Share Our Strength and Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon.

Buy tickets at www.feastportland.com. Find updates on Facebook and Twitter (@FeastPDX).

Tomorrow: San Francisco’s offal lord Chris Cosentino talks about the inspiration for pig-brain mayonnaise, his leap into online food television, and Portland’s place in the national meat hierarchy.

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