Getting to Know ‘Top Chef’ Contestant Phillip Frankland Lee

Chef Phillip Frankland Lee is no stranger to the kitchen or the spotlight
Phillip Frankland Lee

Ron Stern

Chef Phillip Frankland Lee.

How can one explain the meteoric rise of 28-year-old Chef Phillip Frankland Lee? 

His recipe for such early success seems to be a combination of hard work, tenacity and commitment to his vision. After all, here is a young man who has already been featured in Zagat’s 30 Under 30 and was named one of the Best Young Chefs in America by San Pellegrino. As if that weren’t enough, he has won some high-profile TV cooking competitions on such series as Chopped, Guy’s Grocery Games, and Cutthroat Kitchen.

Lee nostalgically recalls the earliest memories of his love of food from a home video of his 3rd birthday. Part of the dialogue is his father trying to justify to his mother why he bought his young son a chef’s knife. He remembers his father’s words to this day, “I don’t know what else to get him; all he likes to do is cook.”

Lee grew up in California’s San Fernando Valley as the oldest of six children, to whom his father would delegate the cooking and kitchen chores. This home-based training instilled in him a sense of purpose and a love of cooking at an early age. 

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Lee dropped out of high school to be in a band and find a way to pursue his passion for cooking. He attended Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Pasadena but left after three months, feeling that real world experience in the restaurant business would best suit his short-term goals. He subsequently worked his way up from a dishwasher to such positions as a sous chef, including the Michelin-starred Hatfield’s in Los Angeles.