The chef joins Biscuits & Jam.

Season 2Episode 28: December 22, 2021

Chef Edward Lee never meant to stay in Kentucky. He was born and raised in New York City and post-9/11 wanted to try something new, so took a short-term job in Louisville. Nineteen and a half years later, he's still there. His restaurant 610 Magnolia has become an institution in his adopted home of Louisville, where locals and visitors alike flock for his James Beard-award winning twist on Southern cuisine. But the appreciation goes both ways. Lee has given back to the community that opened its arms to him, both in Louisville and far beyond.

Lee and Lindsey Ofcacek founded The LEE Initiative (the LEE stands for Let's Empower Employment) in 2018 to help address some of the issues that plague the restaurant industry. He stopped by the Biscuits and Jam podcast recently and discussed the organization's important work to change the restaurant industry for the better—and change the world along the way. 

Chef Edward Lee
Credit: Getty Images

"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." 

As restaurants have started reopening, the organization has continued their vital work, tackling new challenges as they arise. They are currently raising funds for Western Kentucky to help rebuild from the tornado that ripped through the state. While Lee may be a transplant to the South, he is certainly doing his new home proud.

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