The Culinary Institute of America
Alex Lee, the high-profile Chinese American chef who famously left his position as the executive chef of Daniel in New York City in 2003 to take over the kitchen at a Long Island country club, has announced his return to the restaurant industry.
As of last week, Lee is the culinary director of Starr Restaurants, the hospitality empire from Philadelphia-based restaurateur Stephen Starr, whose restaurants include Morimoto (co-owned by the Iron Chef), Buddakan, El Vez, Serpico, Fette Sau, and Upland.
When he left Daniel Boulud’s flagship restaurant in 2003, Lee cited a desire to spend more time with his family, and his garden, as his reason for choosing the comparatively low-key Glen Oaks country club for his next venture. Since then, the Long Island native’s garden has grown to include 4,000 heirloom plants.
Now, more than 10 years after his departure, the chef is ready to return to the intense world of fine dining, in a role that will allow Lee to mentor younger chefs. “I felt like it was the right time to get back into the game, so to speak,” he told the New York Times. In addition to overseeing Starr’s group of 34 restaurants and growing, mostly in Philadelphia and New York City, Lee will supervise other Starr corporate chefs and focus primarily on the newest Starr restaurants.
“His knowledge of food and the food world blew me away,” Stephen Starr, who first met Lee when discussing his new role, told the Times. “Maybe one day he’ll be doing his own restaurant.”