Fleeing the 1980 Cambodian civil war, chef Chanthy Yen’s grandparents and parents arrived as refugees in Windsor, Ontario. IT’s a sleepy Canadian town that’s ten minutes away from Detroit, Michigan. Yen grew up in his grandmother’s kitchen. She taught him everything he knows today about traditional Cambodian cuisine. This ignited a true passion for cooking in him, and more importantly, it opened for opportunities.
Chanthy Yen’s Huge Opportunity
As he grew older, Chanthy Yen went to cook his way around the world, working with acclaimed chefs like Ferran Adria, Andoni Luis Aduriz, and Magnus Nilson, before settling in Montreal as the executive chef of Parliament, a restaurant that’s inspired by British pubs. In 2020, the restaurants were closed, and this allowed Yen to see another opportunity. In late May, he opened a Cambodian street food pop-up inside Parliament, called Touk. This seemed to be an instant success, with sold-out dinners and lines down the block. He garnered international press from as far as Phnom Penh. Despite the uncertainty surrounding the current world events, Yen has never felt clearer about his future.
Chanthy’s Great Success
Touk serves only a handful of Cambodian dishes. Some of them cannot be found in any other restaurant in Montreal, perhaps even in Canada. His grandmother’s teachings filtered through his Canadian lens, using contemporary techniques. Touk is temporarily inside Parliament, which is an elevated British pub, where he was the executive chef before the government closed the restaurants. He poured all his care and creativity into each dish, from essential Sunday roast to whelks on toast. He became Parliament, just like any chef who steps into the mold of where he or she cooks. However, when the national events forced him to re-examine what he’s doing, he had to re-examine himself.
Chanthy Yen felt in his heart that he could never fail. The confidence to cook his food and not the food of others helps him to stay at the top of his game.