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Special chef makes it 16 in a row at the Richmond Night Market

Chef James has had to reinvent himself once or twice to keep his spot at the popular market

The Richmond Night Market, in its current form, has been around 20 years – but a certain chef has been starring at the popular attraction for16 of those years.

James Chen moved to Canada in 1996 from China where he had specialized in genetics in, of all things, animal husbandry.

However, his credentials did not transfer, and he had to start from scratch.

Working at the Fairmont Hotel by Waterfront and being a chef for over 25 years, Chen’s passion for food and serving people brought him to the night market in 2007.

His children, Kelvin and Lillian, help run the stall during the weekends, when they’re not at their full-time jobs during the week.

“The (experience) is pretty cool because we built up a really loyal fan-base and we are able to come back year after year and have people enjoy our food,” said Kelvin.

“I think we have learned a lot. When we first started the business, we had a completely different menu and over the years, our recipe has evolved, and our customer-base has also grown and evolved with us.”

The night market has a limit on vendors who can serve barbecue and Chef James did not make the cut last year.

This resulted in the chef changing the menu from serving skewers to buns and pan-fried noodles.

“I think when we changed our menu, we actually lost many of our customers because they were confused by the other barbecues that had a very similar name to us,” added Kelvin.

“So, last year was really bit of a challenge to basically grow the business from the ground up to a new business.

“But I think we were able to slowly bring in our customer base to try our new food and TikTok was a great place to bring awareness to our new menu.”

Only one place to see Chef James

Chef James is only open at the night market, and that makes it special in its own way.

Opening outside of the night market is still a running debate in the family and they’re not sure if they will make a decision any time soon.

“I think my dad puts a lot of passion into it or always reinventing or improving the recipes we get feedback from customers, and I think there’s a lot of showmanship behind the food as well, it just comes from a place of passion and love for the food,” said Kelvin.