Anita Lo, chef and owner of Annisa in New York City, is one of the most respected chefs in the country, earning numerous accolades for her inventive contemporary American cuisine that reflects her multicultural upbringing and classic French training.
Lo, a first generation Chinese-American, grew up with her family in Birmingham, Michigan and fostered an interest in food at a young age. While earning a degree in French language at Columbia University, she studied at Reid Hall—Columbia’s French language institute in Paris. She fell in love with the food culture and vowed to return. Back in the United States, Lo accepted her first kitchen job as garde-manger at Bouley, but after a year, she decided to move back to Paris and enroll in Ecole Ritz-Escoffier, a revered culinary institution. She received her degree, graduating first in her class with honors, while interning under Guy Savoy and Michel Rostang. Back in New York, Lo worked her way through all the stations at David Waltuck’s Chanterelle. She developed her culinary style during her time at Mirezi, where she earned a two-star review from The New York Times.
In 2000, Lo opened Annisa (whose name means ”women” in Arabic), an intimate, upscale restaurant in Greenwich Village serving Contemporary American cuisine. It was an instant hit, earning rave reviews from critics. Food & Wine magazine named her one of ten “Best New Chefs in America” in 2001, and the Village Voice proclaimed Lo as “Best New Restaurant Chef.” In June 2009, after nearly ten years in business, Annisa suffered an unfortunate blow—a fire destroyed the restaurant entirely. Lo decided to take some time to travel as plans for rebuilding Annisa got underway. She scoured the globe for inspiration. Meanwhile, Lo appeared on the first season of Top Chef Masters where she battled her contemporaries on weekly challenges that tested their culinary prowess. She finished fourth out of 24 chefs.
In April 2010, after a complete renovation of the original Barrow Street location, Lo reopened Annisa. She kept many of the same elements—clean design, welcoming atmosphere, small menu and a few signature dishes—but shook it up with new additions to the menu inspired by her recent travels that range from culinary trips to Senegal and Russia to a fishing trip to Alaska.
In October 2011, Lo released her long-awaited first cookbook, which highlights her passion for bringing multicultural flavors to her American kitchen. Her recipes celebrate the best flavors and ingredients from around the world at a time when access to international ingredients is greater than ever before. Interspersed are stories from Lo’s life, memories of her travels and tips on cooking.
In February 2014, critic Pete Wells re-reviewed Annisa in The New York Times, bestowing the restaurant with a prestigious three stars. In the review, he calls her food “remarkable” and “impressive,” and the restaurant “graceful and unfussy.”
Lo closed annisa after 17 years of operation in May of 2017. She is presently taking time off and finishing her second book, Solo: Easy Sophisticated Recipes For a Party of One, which will be published in the Fall of 2018 by Knopf.