Christopher Lee alighted on the Forge this winter and started on the busiest day of the year for a restaurant: Valentines Day. Not only did Lee kill it, but so did his loyal staff—including his Chef de Cuisine, Julia Doyne and award-winning Pastry Chef, Alycia Delaney—who followed him from New York. It was in the Big Apple with those same staffers where he earned a Michelin star for Charlier Palmer’s Aureole and two stars as Executive Chef of The Palace Hotel’s Gilt. Those stars were a long time in the making for Lee who had gleaned from the best of the best at Daniel, Jean Georges and Oceana, and a mixed family background that exposed him to the wonders of Chinese cooking from his father and Ukrainian dishes from his mother. Now that Lee’s menu and team are firmly in place the word on the street is The Forge just may be the best restaurant in the city.
HL: Is being a great chef a god-given talent?
CL: In life, we’re all taught to do something, whether you are a doctor, lawyer or chef. I wasn’t born better than other chefs or anyone on my team; I just trained really hard. I devoted myself to my craft and I wanted to learn. I’m a thinker and I like to analyze and understand things instead of reacting to them.
HL:What makes someone a great chef?
CL: The difference between great chefs and ok chefs is that great chefs feel the pressure everyday. It’s about self-motivation. There’s going to be one day in your career when you wont have that many people to answer to. So, how do you keep that same intensity?
HL: Do Executive Chefs get to really cook much?
CL: They say when you’re a line cook, all you want to do is be a chef, and when you’re a chef all you want to be is a line cook again because you are taken away from the stove. I got into this industry because I love to cook. I love the heat, using the knife, creating great food and having that feeling you get at 11 or 12 o clock at night thinking ‘Yeah we worked it tonight!’ and having that sense of pride of getting through a 400 cover night.
HL: What’s the most important thing in the kitchen?
CL: Good upper management. Ultimately, that’s what makes the guest experience.