Twenty-year-old chef Andersen Lee is getting ready for the big leagues. The Chinese-Canadian from Montreal will have the opportunity to learn from the kitchens of three of the top restaurants in the world: Odette in Singapore, which was recently awarded top spot in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, Core by Clare Smyth in London, and Quintonil, helmed by Jorge Vallejo in Mexico City. Lee beat 1,200 applicants from 74 countries to win the 50 Best BBVA Scholarship. Applicants can only have a maximum of three years experience working in a professional kitchen, they must submit a recommendation letter and self-produced videos of themselves making a dish, and if they make it through to the final three candidates, conduct a Skype interview. William Drew, group editor of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants praised Lee for his keen interest in cooking. “Andersen’s philosophy on food, his fresh thinking, his ambition and his deep desire to learn from the best stood out in a hugely competitive field. His dish reflected his technical ability, elements of his background and the local terroir, as well as his individual personality.” Born in Montreal, Lee speaks English, French, Mandarin and a few Cantonese words from his Hong Kong father. His mother is Taiwanese. “My parents are freaking out,” Lee says. “They want me to be happy.” He was always interested in cooking and learned some basics from watching Gordon Ramsay’s videos on YouTube. Lee later entered the restaurant industry thanks to his half-sister who is 18 years older than him. When she opened Restaurant Provisions in Montreal, she recruited Lee to help out. Hakim Rahal, the chef showed Lee a few tricks in the kitchen and he was hooked. “He showed me his techniques, I how to run a restaurant, and how the team comes together. I fell in love with that rush,” Lee says. After high school Lee went straight into culinary school – which his parents frowned upon – and after graduating he started working at Bouillon Bilk, one of Montreal’s top restaurants. He didn’t tell his colleagues that he applied for the scholarship until he made the top 20. Everyone pitched in, including a duck supplier who gave him the bird to make his dish for the video. “I had to present my philosophy through my dish, and here the co-star is the carrot,” he explains. In the video he shows step-by-step how he incorporates the duck, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, and coffee. “I find coffee comforting especially when it’s cold,” he says. In culinary school Lee was taught to use up all the ingredients, so the prime cuts were seared, off cuts were braised, and the rest of the animal was used to make stock. “We shouldn’t waste that much. The restaurant industry isn’t a sustainable one. We should be more responsible about how we use water. It wasn’t until I started working in restaurants I realised how much waste there was. As much as we respect animals, we should do the same with vegetables.” The first winner of The 50 BBVA Scholarship, Jessie Liu of Taiwan, reached out to Lee after his win. Liu went on to stage at Mugaritz in San Sebastian, Spain, and Atelier Crenn in San Francisco with Dominique Crenn. She then went back to Taipei to work at Mume before going to Lecce, Italy to work at Bros’ restaurant by Floriano Pellegrino. Lee already has his travel plans mapped out for the next few months. In early May he will be heading to Taiwan with his younger cousin until The World’s 50 Best Restaurants event in Singapore on June 25 and four days later will start his stage at Odette with chef-owner Julien Royer, followed by London then Mexico City. Royer says Lee, “ … will get a deeper, hands-on understanding of our culinary approach, get to meet some of our very important suppliers who provide us with amazing produce every day and hopefully, develop as deep a love as we do of the process and the produce.” “As a chef you should be open to everything and I’ll be busy taking notes to share with my friends back in Montreal,” Lee says. “I want to learn about leadership, how they explain things and see the different kitchens and cultures. He hopes these stages will help him get to work in the kitchens of SingleThread in San Francisco that has three Michelin stars, and New York’s Eleven Madison Park, which was crowned the World’s 50 Best Restaurant in 2017.