Edward Lee's Mission of Service

Edward Lee discusses his restaurant and Louisville, his adopted hometown.

Chef Edward Lee
Photo: Getty Images

Chef Edward Lee joins Sid Evans on this episode of Biscuits & Jam to discuss being born and raised in New York City and his post-9/11 move to Lousiville, which has now become his adopted home and location for his restaurant, 610 Magnolia.

Get to Know Edward Lee

Chef Edward Lee is a James Beard Award-winning author, a former Top Chef contestant and judge, and the owner of several restaurants, including the now legendary 610 Magnolia in his hometown of Louisville. He's also the co-founder of the Lee Initiative, a non-profit that has provided millions of free meals to out-of-work restaurant industry employees during the pandemic.

What Edward Lee Talks About in This Episode

*His early experiences with food, including his grandmother's cooking

*Traveling America post-9/11

*Transforming 610 Magnolia and his other restaurant's cuisines

*How food tells a story

*His non-profit organization, the Lee Initiative

*Louisville's changing food scene

*What it means to be Southern

Quotes from Edward Lee

"So my grandmother sort of stayed at home and cooked, and that's all she knew was Korean food. Everything was made from scratch cause it's a lot cheaper. We had jars of things all over the house. You know, now it would look real trendy and stuff. But back then it was like weird things, funky things fermenting in jars all over the house."

"For people out there who don't know my story, I grew up in New York and I was raised in New York and then opened a restaurant in New York. And then 9/11 happened. And my restaurant, we were very close to the twin towers, and I just had this feeling like before I jump into another project or do anything else, I want to go and discover what America means to me because New York City is not America. It is this glorious, weird melting pot, very international, but it's not American. And I'd always wanted to go to the Kentucky Derby. It's always been on my bucket list."

-Edward Lee

 "I was discovering Southern food, it actually brought me closer to Korean food. I don't know, maybe I was in Louisville for like a year or so, and I went to a soul food restaurant and I ate a bowl of collard greens, and I just remember thinking, like, I never had this before, but and the ingredients are different, but it reminds me of a soup that I had growing up when I was a kid. And it was a seaweed soup, but it has the same things, right? Like instead of ham hocks, they'd use dried anchovy and beef."

— -Edward Lee

"Our entire professional lives have been in this industry," Lee said on the podcast. "We wanted to do something that was positive, right? And so what we did was say, well, let's do a mentorship program." The group didn't stop there, though. When the pandemic hit and shuttered restaurants across the country, they jumped into action, feeding thousands of people and supporting local independent farmers. "We realized this is a national problem, not a local problem," Lee said. "We just started to open up relief kitchens around the country and fed over two million meals during COVID to restaurant workers who were out of work."

About Biscuits & Jam

In the South, talking about food is personal. It's a way of sharing your history, your Family, your culture, and yourself. Each week Sid Evans, editor in chief of Southern Living, sits down with celebrity musicians to hear stories of how they grew up, what inspired them, and how they've been shaped by Southern culture. Sid takes us back to some of their most cherished memories and traditions, the family meals they still think about, and their favorite places to eat on the road.

Listen to the full episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, and Stitcher.

Get a transcript of the full interview with EdwardLee.

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