Sat | Jun 6, 2020

Lian Chen - Doing it all

Published:Tuesday | July 4, 2017 | 12:00 AMTickoya Joseph
In her open concept kitchen, Chen prepares all her meals, ensuring that each dish meets her standards.
Lian Chen proudly stands by her brand and hopes to expand in the future.

​It is said that maturity doesn't come with age, but rather with the acceptance of responsibility.

It's not often that someone in their early 20s is ready to make big life moves. Lian Chen, however, is ready.

At just 23 years old, on December 7, 2016, she cut the opening ribbon of her restaurant, Voila Bistro by Lilee, on the outskirts of Mandeville in Manchester.

Owning her own restaurant was long in the cards for Chen. "I love to eat and I love to feed people," she shared with Outlook. She rolled her eyes in jest as her mother, Rosemarie interjected: "She is always in the kitchen from a young age."

Chen knows the beginning of that story all too well. As a child, she wandered into the kitchen after being warned to stay out, and got burnt. The burn mark on her cheek in the shape of a heart, may have been serendipitous.

Her mother also told the story of how the smell of brownies would welcome her home in the evenings, but quickly added that these brownies were not made for the household, but were secretly marketed and sold at school and even neighbouring schools.

Chen's father gave her the opportunity (after leaving college in 2014) to start a business. "Then, I didn't know if I could do it. I was overwhelmed with all the decisions," Chen shared. She knew, however, that whatever she did, it would be quite distinct from any other space. "I was very particular about the look and feel of the establishment."

Chen often dreams of the day when she can take afternoon bike rides on the streets of France. That is the one place on her must-visit list, and it is from there that she draws motivation and inspiration. Her restaurant represents her dream country's chic style.




Chen's mother pitched in to help with the decor and her only sibling shared his expertise and skills and furnished the eatery with counters, tables, and seating which adds to its charm. Chen is quite proud of her family and said that she is grateful they were able to work through her demands and meltdowns while getting her business up and running.

After, leaving Bishop Gibson High in 2012, on her own volition, Chen researched and applied to Rock House in Negril and then on to Sandals to gain work experience. She then realised that it was better to learn on the job.

Her mother shared that there are days that she really has to remind herself that her daughter is only 23. As a business operator herself, she understands that it is not an easy task to manage staff, play the administrative role, as well as be an integral part in the core of the operations. She, however, added that her daughter is able to handle the challenges "She is young, she should work hard," she laughed.

Chen is aware that the family is always there to aid in whatever way they can.

Being the 'head cook and bottle washer'takes away from her social life. "For the hours that we are not open, I have to be prepping," she shared. But it is all worth it as the business is her dream come true. While learning on the job, she wakes up excited to do it over and over again daily. She is very fond of her staff as she was very careful in selecting people who shared her passion and vision.