California-based winemaker Patrick Saboe tells his Frank Lee stories to the night’s crowd. Patrick, a waiter at the Colony House in 1991 when Lee joined Dick Elliott and David Marconi there as chef, helped open SNOB in ’93 and, as Lee says, “was part of the ‘Gang of Four’ waiters that ruled the floor.”
Robin and Frank Lee with longtime friends Steve Jackson and Malcolm Hudson (far right). “Malcolm is hugely responsible for my career path and my appreciation of French cuisine,” says Frank. “His influence is all over my menus and the lives of countless cooks. We call him ‘The Inoculator’—he inoculates young cooks with the spirit of cuisine and after that they are doomed to seek quality and style in their cooking for the rest of their lives.”
Yannick Cam, for whom Lee worked at Le Pavillon in D.C., was in attendance and even prepared appetizers, including these tuna tartelettes.
roasted turnips; Lee with Graham Dailey (Peninsula Grill), who worked at SNOB for a few years and was, according to Lee, “a badass line cook who had smarts and ambition.”
Lee sits with local farmer Celeste Albers and chef Bob Waggoner, both longtime friends and colleagues. “The culinary gravity changed when Bob came to town,” says Lee. “He brought a higher standard of cooking and hospitality... and national attention.”
Lee with Graham Dailey (Peninsula Grill), who worked at SNOB for a few years and was, according to Lee, “a badass line cook who had smarts and ambition;”
Lee at SNOB with four of his “Cuisine Commandos,” cooks who earn the shirt and the title by demonstrating their passion, skill, and commitment to excellence—“It’s an elite club for sure,” he says.
ormer acolytes Chris Newsome (Ollie Irene, Alabama) and Chris Stewart (The Glass Onion, West Ashley)
Maverick Southern Kitchens partners David Marconi and Dick Elliott present Lee with a chef’s coat “signed by so many wonderful people and I can’t ever wear it or wash it,” he says.
Lee surrounded by folks who worked at SNOB at one time or another. “This affair was much more than a tribute to me,” he says. “It was a celebration of a group of loving human beings who share a bond so strong that ‘family’ or ‘tribe’ are the only words I can find to describe the phenomenon.”
Chef Lee’s protégés on the line
Frank’s daughter, Meghan; mother, Jane; Frank; sons, Jesse and Everett; and wife, Robin
The chef with the beginning of a okra and shrimp creole in the SNOB dining room circa 1998
Frank met Robin, his wife of 31 years, while working at Hudson’s in Columbia. (Left) At home on Isle of Palms the summer after Hurricane Hugo; Lee recalls there was lots of sunlight from so many trees being down and a mysterious crop of sunflowers appeared.
Lee in Columbia, South Carolina, in 1978, while working at vegetarian restaurant and natural foods co-op 221 Pickens Street
With his culinary crew at Wild Dunes
At Hudson’s dishing up Manchester Farm quail, which is still on the menus at Slightly North of Broad and Old Village Post House
Maverick Southern Kitchen partners Dick Elliot, Frank Lee, and David Marconi in the mid-’90s
Lee in the kitchen of the Veranda restaurant at Wild Dunes in 1985
In order to get the job at Malcolm Hudson’s French nouvelle restaurant, Hudson’s, in Columbia, South Carolina, Lee had to give up his vegetarianism because Hudson told him, “You have to eat the food!”