Anita Lo, chef-owner of New York restaurant Annisa, has never let national boundaries determine what’s coming together in her kitchen. A Chinese-American who grew up in Michigan, Lo steeped herself in French culture—in language studies as part of her degree from Columbia, in classic training at the Paris École Ritz-Escoffier, and in externships with Guy Savoy and Michel Rostang. And she’s brought the tastes of her travels to Europe and Southeast Asia along as well (take her seared foie gras with soup dumplings and jicama, for example). Lo even called her first cookbook (published in 2011) Cooking Without Borders. Website Serious Eats claimed, “To Anita Lo, all cooking is fusion cooking.”
Opening Anissa (Arabic for “women”) in 2000, in Manhattan’s West Village, Lo created an elegant yet comfortable restaurant, with a small menu that spoke to those global flavors. It was soon not only given two stars by the New York Times, but Lo was named one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs in 2001. The Times bestowed a third star on Annisa in a 2014 review, with critic Pete Wells writing that “…time has simply made it more clear how singular Annisa is. It’s still not easy to say what Ms. Lo’s style is, but it is hers, and hers alone, and the city is a more exciting place for it.”
In 2009 a fire ravaged Anissa, and Lo set out to rebuild; in the process she became a household name. As the restaurant was renovated (it reopened in 2010), Lo took a turn on Iron Chef America (beating chef Mario Batali), helped launch the first season of Top Chef Masters (she made it to the final four), and appeared, in 2011, on Chopped: All-Stars Tournament.
“Anita Lo is not…a flashy chef,” wrote Sam Sifton of the New York Times in 2010. “She doesn’t grandstand…She simply stays in the kitchen and works, cooking as the Puget Sound novelist David Guterson writes: precisely, with earth in closest proximity to the sea.”