Louisville Chef Edward Lee Chosen As The Guest Chef For South Korean State Dinner At White House

Maryland crab cakes with gochujang vinaigrette was on the menu.

Chef Edward Lee at White House State Dinner

Courtesy of White House Photo Office

First Lady Jill Biden and the White House tapped Chef Edward Lee of Louisville to help craft a three-course menu for this week's State Dinner in honor of South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and First Lady Mrs. Kim Keon Hee.

Lee, a renowned Korean American chef, blends recipes and traditions from his Korean family with those he's learned working and living in New York and now Kentucky.

"Chef Lee creates meals that are both familiar and surprising, a fusion of different worlds that finds a perfect balance," Dr. Biden said earlier this week during a preview for the State Dinner. "We're honored to have his incredible talent alongside our White House chefs."

Lee worked with White House Executive Chef Cris Comerford and White House Executive Pastry Chef Susie Morrison for the one-of-a-kind menu and the second State Visit of the Biden-Harris Administration.

The official menu featured many wonderfully creative dishes, including several Southern favorites: The first course was a Maryland crab cake with cabbage, kohlrabi, fennel, and cucumber slaw. That was dressed in a gochujang vinaigrette.

The main course was braised beef short ribs with butter bean grits, sorghum-glazed carrots, and pine nuts.

beef short ribs from White House State Dinner by Edward Lee

Courtesy of White House Photo Office

For dessert, dinner attendees were served a banana split made with lemon bar ice cream, fresh berries, mint ginger snap cookie crumble, and doenjang caramel.

"It's a high-stakes dinner, probably the biggest thing that I've done in my career, because it's not just VIPs, it's minutes, there's diplomacy involved here," Lee said, according to Louisville Public Media.

For Lee, the State Dinner was a wonderful opportunity to show off his singular culinary style while highlighting the 70-year partnership between South Korea and the United States.

"It's really because of that alliance, after the Korean War, where my parents immigrated to America and, and I have this life and all these opportunities and, you know, my identity," Lee said.

He added, "Food is about people, it's about culture, it's about love," Lee said. "I am part Korean, and I am part New York and I am part Kentucky and I am part of all these things."

The former Top Chef contestant spoke with Southern Living on the Biscuits & Jam podcast last year about his roots and style of cooking, and how it's so closely connected to his family: "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," he said in the interview.

Lee currently has two restaurants, one in Louisville (610 Magnolia) and one outside Washington D.C. (Succotash Prime). His newest one, a Korean steakhouse called Nami, is scheduled to open in Louisville May 2.

Lee wasn't the only Southern star in attendance at the dinner. Joanna and Chip Gaines also made the trip to D.C.

Gaines wrote, "What an honor it was to be a part of tonight’s State Dinner to celebrate the 70 year alliance between the United States of America and my mother's home country of South Korea. Coming off the heels of our incredible trip to Seoul, this evening was another reminder of just how proud I am to be a Korean American."

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