Edward Lee (chef)

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Edward Lee is a Brooklyn-born chef and restaurateur currently based in Washington D.C. He has made numerous television appearances on shows including The Mind of a Chef on PBS and as a contestant on the ninth season of Top Chef. He is a four-time James Beard Award nominee and currently owns three restaurants in both Louisville and Washington, D.C.[1][2][3]

Early life and career[edit]

Lee was born and raised in Brooklyn to Korean parents. Lee began cooking at the age of 11 and credits his grandmother with first sparking his interest in food. After graduating magna cum laude with a degree in literature from NYU, Lee began cooking professionally at the age of 22.[4][5] He traveled to France and toured the US to learn more about different ingredients, cuisines and cooking methods. It was on a trip to the Kentucky Derby in 2001 that he fell in love with Louisville and Southern cooking.[6] He moved to the city in 2002 and began working at 610 Magnolia with former chef/owner Eddie Garber. Lee now owns 610 Magnolia along with two other restaurants; Milkwood and Succotash, which is located in Washington, D.C.[7] In 2007, Lee opened a venue for special events called The Wine Studio@610 Magnolia.[8]

In 2011, he was one of the 'cheftestants' on season 9 of Top Chef. He won two elimination challenges, and was the twelfth to exit the competition. He was also the host chef featured in the third season of The Mind of a Chef.

In 2014, Lee partnered with YouthBuild and IDEAS 40203 to create a culinary training program based in the Smoketown neighborhood of Louisville. The program trains youth who may not be able to afford expensive culinary schools with skills in all aspects of the restaurant industry.[9] In 2015, Lee's young chef trainees launched a pop-up diner called Smoke & Soul.[10]

Lee has been nominated four times by the James Beard Foundation for Best Chef: Southeast in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.[11] In 2013, he published a cookbook, Smoke and Pickles. The book received positive reviews from food journalists and other chefs including David Chang and Anthony Bourdain.[12]

In 2017, Lee was the chef judge for the American adaptation of Culinary Genius.[13]

In 2017, Lee founded The LEE Initiative. The LEE (Let’s Empower Employment) Initiative identifies issues surrounding diversity in the restaurant industry and creates solutions to help the restaurant community grow. The initiative includes two programs; Smoke and Soul and Women Chefs in Kentucky. [14]


Edward Lee's approach to cooking frequently blends the flavors of his Korean heritage and culinary traditions and ingredients of the southern United States including sorghum, ham and bourbon. In The Mind of a Chef, Lee said he believes that food that grows in the same latitude often blends well together, even if the locations are thousands of miles apart.[15]

Personal life[edit]

Lee is married to Kentucky native Dianne Lee. The couple welcomed a baby girl, Arden, in 2013.[16]


  1. ^ "Meet Our Staff | 610 Magnolia". 610magnolia.com. Retrieved 2016-02-03. 
  2. ^ "Meet Chef Edward Lee | The Mind of a Chef | PBS Food". PBS Food. Retrieved 2016-02-03. 
  3. ^ "Search | James Beard Foundation". www.jamesbeard.org. Retrieved 2016-02-03. 
  4. ^ "Norman Van Aken's Kitchen Conversations: Edward Lee". The Daily Meal. Retrieved 2016-02-03. 
  5. ^ "Edward Lee". Bravo TV Official Site. Retrieved 2016-02-03. 
  6. ^ "Behind the Scenes Chef Edward Lee 610 Magnolia Louisville KY | Friends Drift Inn Recipes Gardening & Hot Flashes | Recipes Gardening and Hot Flashes". www.friendsdriftinn.com. Retrieved 2016-02-03. 
  7. ^ "Inside Chef Edward Lee's New National Harbor Restaurant: Succotash". Washingtonian. Retrieved 2016-02-03. 
  8. ^ "Wine Studio | 610 Magnolia". 610magnolia.com. Retrieved 2016-02-03. 
  9. ^ "Chef Edward Lee launches Smoketown program". The Courier-Journal. Retrieved 2016-02-03. 
  10. ^ McMahan, Dana (2015-09-29). "Edward Lee Has An Idea To Help Solve The Chef Shortage". Retrieved 2016-02-03. 
  11. ^ "Search | James Beard Foundation". www.jamesbeard.org. Retrieved 2016-02-03. 
  12. ^ Lee, Edward (2013-05-01). Smoke and Pickles: Recipes and Stories from a New Southern Kitchen. Artisan. ISBN 9781579654924. 
  13. ^ "Louisville chef Edward Lee stars in new TV show 'Culinary Genius,' set to air Monday". Courier Journal. Retrieved 2018-01-02. 
  14. ^ www.chefedwardlee.com
  15. ^ "Season 3 Episode 6: Latitude | The Mind of a Chef | PBS Food". PBS Food. Retrieved 2016-02-03. 
  16. ^ "24 Hours with Chef Edward Lee in Charleston, SC". The Daily Meal. Retrieved 2016-02-03.