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Thi Le

Anchovy, VIC

‘Modern Asian. Modern Australian. A little bit in between,’ is how the culinary offering of Anchovy is described on its website. Chef and co-owner Thi Le says: “It’s an accessible venue that allows me to express my South East Asian heritage and identity as a Blacktown girl in the context of the current Australian dining scene. All underpinned by the key pillar in Asian dining and hospitality – that food is to nourish and to be shared.”

After training with the likes of Christine Manfield and Andrew McConnell, Thi planned to open her own restaurant by the age of 35. However, noticing a gap in the market, she decided to take the plunge in 2015, opening in Melbourne’s Richmond neighbourhood six years ahead of her self-imposed schedule. “A reality check from my partner sunk in – that I was not going to stop learning – so I stopped procrastinating and started doing,” she says.

The philosophy behind Anchovy is “to be committed to what we do and to constantly evolve, and achieve both without losing sight of our heritage and identity,” explains Thi. Profitability is important, but so too are relationships with staff, suppliers, customers and the community.

Thi is also keen to prove that small, independent venues can succeed without the backing of cashed-up corporate investors. “Becoming Young Restaurateur of the Year would cement our beliefs and vision. Hopefully it also motivates the next person to set out on their own,” she says.

Follow Thi on Instagram @anchovy338