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Edward’s Story

Edward Lee

Lesson time 53 min

Chef Edward Lee refuses to be defined by his heritage, culture, or geography. Born Korean, raised in Brooklyn, living in Louisville, Kentucky – Chef Lee is more than the sum of his parts. Discover the city, people, and places that make chef Lee tick, and have inspired his new cuisine that goes beyond any boundaries.

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17 years ago, I left New York City and all my friends and family and everything I had to go to a restaurant with no name, no reputation in the middle of Louisville, Kentucky. I’m defined by two places, New York and Kentucky and I’m defined by two worlds of cuisine like Southern food and sort of the Korean food that I grew up with. We were a working class immigrant family. Both my parents worked really long hours and my grandmother stayed home and cooked. That was my first memories of food so little by little, I would gravitate towards the kitchen and I must have been eight or nine, I told my parents, I said, “I’m gonna be a chef.” I love this place, it’s a very community driven place. It’s not New York, it runs at a slower pace. As someone who wants to cook for a living, I couldn’t ask for a better place to be in. [Sheryl] Thank you. [Man] Thank you ma’am. Please and thank you. [Sheryl] All right. Who’s next in line to order, D? [Man] Let me get the breast with greens and sweet potatoes, please. It’s on the wrong day, why are you here today? I been craving it too much. I can’t stay outta here. I had never eaten collard greens, or candied yams, or fried catfish before I got down here and when I started eating that food, though it was very foreign to me and I had no history of it and none of my family knew anything about it, there was something about it that just spoke to me. Testing, one, two, three. What do you want to hear? ♪ Hello my friend ♪ [Sheryl] You got on the right shirt. Can I get some fried chicken? [Sheryl] Yes. Gimme like three pieces fried chicken, some greens and you got beans? Brown and white beans today. Yeah, can I get some of that and a little cabbage? All right. Thank you. [Sheryl] You want white or dark meat? Dark, please, always dark. So the soul food that Big Momma cooks, they’re very special foods ’cause they get passed down from generation to generation and there’s not a lot of written recipes that are involved. It’s really a sort of family tradition. The fact that those traditions are available to us who, you know, I’m not a part of her family, but that we can go in and sort of partake in this tradition and be able to eat family recipes is a very special thing. Want some dessert of the day? I’m watching my waistline, thank you. Now, when I first came to Louisville 17 years ago, there was not a lot of Southern food restaurants. Southern food wasn’t very popular then and so when I had to learn about Southern food, I had to go to places like this, to Soul Food. To learn about fried chicken and collards and braised cabbage and now that Southern food is popular and there’s cornbread and fried chicken everywhere. It’s important that we don’t forget places like this because they were holding the light, they were holding the flame when no one cared about Southern food, when it wasn’t trendy, when it wasn’t in the food magazines, they were the ones holding the traditions, upkeeping the traditions and cooking them in a very authentic way throughout decades. Hello. [Sheryl] Hey Chef Lee. Can I come in and say hi? How are you doing? You look different. ‘Cause I lost weight, I look good? ‘Cause you ain’t been eating very– That’s the world famous technique right there, huh? I just wanted to say hello, thank you very much for your food, I know you’re an institution here in Louisville. And that you make some damn good fried chicken. How long you been doing this? 15 years next month. 15 years, yeah. Well, I’m so glad you’re here in Louisville. I don’t know how long it’s gonna be? Why, she’s gonna take over? Who? Your daughter. She can’t boil water. Did you hear what you said about you? [Sheryl] Yeah I know, you want some taco salad? That’s all she do is taco salad. She don’t cook. What do you got over there, is that the salmon cooking? Uh-huh, you want one? I’m not gonna say no. No. Don’t smell it to find out what’s in it. You slick. I just wanna know how you make your fried chicken. I ain’t telling you. I know. It’s the same recipe as from the very beginning or you kinda change ’em over the years? [Big Momma] I don’t change. Same recipe? You still cooking. Are you? I am. Well this is amazing. Maybe I’ll come in here and take over when you’re done. Sure, you can. But listen, you know, at some point, like these things are treasures, you know? Like I’d hate to see them get lost one you decide to retire. And they shouldn’t be. These are recipes that should go on forever. To me, it’s our responsibility collectively to support these places and give them their credit and you know, you can gather recipes. And you know, these are, to me, these are like living treasures. And now that southern food is trendy, there’s a risk that places like these and people like this get forgotten. And it’s really important that we don’t forget. They’re the reason why southern food is what it is today. My fried chicken doesn’t exist without her fried chicken. And it’s still not as good as hers. Bourbon is brown water. Of all the liquors in the world, it’s probably the most simple and yet, it’s the most complex at the same time. The most important part about bourbon actually is not the distillate, but it’s actually what happens after you distill this corn whiskey. You put it in a charred barrel. It has to be new oak, has to be from America. The amount of char depends on who you talk to, but you basically, you know, toast the inside of that barrel til it is completely blackened. So now you can imagine taking this really clear, corn-tasting, clear liquid and putting it in this darkened, charred barrel. And you close it up and you let time do it’s thing. You’re getting this beautiful sort of marriage of char, and oak, and tannin and all that mixing with this sweet corn. And over time, you get something which is to me, the most beautiful elixir in the world. I still think the best bourbon comes out of Kentucky but, you know, there’s a lot of people pumping a lot of money into bourbon. Texas, and Colorado, and California and they’re all trying to make bourbon now. But it’s not an accident that 96% of bourbon is made here. You know, we have the iron-free water. You know, even to this day, the majority of the oak, the white oak that we use for our American white oak barrel is from Kentucky. I taste a lot of bourbons, you know, from distilleries that have been built in the last five years, you know what I mean? And while the skill is there, there’s something, you know, and I can’t put my finger on it but there’s some… And I think it’s something that gets passed on from generation to generation. Well it’s time. You know, my grandfather, he was the passionate whiskey maker and that truly was-that’s all he was interested in. This is a bottle that I bought last week and this is from year two. That’s crazy. So year two, I mean, what year is that then? That would have been late 1959. To me, bourbon now has become an ingredient. So it’s something that I use a lot in my cooking as well. It adds a lot of complexity to food if you know how to use it right. I’m gonna make you one of my favorite dishes, oysters and grits with bourbon brown butter. It was really a cheap food, it was never considered like a luxury thing. They were so good, we over-fished them. And so now, they’re running out and they’ve become kind of this luxury product, you know? But in the old days, it really wasn’t. So you know how like everyone knows shrimp and grits but you know, back in the day, if, you know, when shrimp was not that plentiful, like oysters would’ve been what you used. Cheers. Cheers. Good to be with you. That’s good. So this is basically just a vat of butter that I’ve browned. There’s a little bit of bourbon in there and some salt, that’s it. And that’s gonna bubble up. And then really, all I’m doing is taking these really fresh oysters and just dropping them right in there. And I don’t wanna cook ’em too long, just kinda poaching them, so. I’ve got some grits. Just really slowly cook them. A little bit of butter. And what I’m just gonna do is add some oysters. Then I take this bourbon and brown butter, which I’ve used to poach the oysters and I use that as a sauce. Just a little squirt of that right over the edge just to give it a little acidity. What kind of food do you like to eat? [Rob] Exactly what you’re making. Really? All right, so I’m really excited for you to try these oysters and grits. As am I. Oh my goodness. With, you know, the different textures of the oyster and the grits, it all works, doesn’t it? To me, there’s something cool about bourbon ’cause you can bring sweetness to a dish, you bring a little bit of smoky flavor. You know, there’s always that like, sort of leathery, hay-y kind of, sort of back note that comes in. The way I always tell people is like, if you’re gonna use bourbon as a ingredient, right, not as just a drink, like they did half the work for you. Bourbon in a pan, you reduce it down a little bit and really, you’re just adding a little texture. Maybe butter, maybe some oil or something like that but the flavor’s already there. To take something that’s been aged four, five, six years and then actually, you know, use it in an ingredient or a sauce, it’s kind of the height of luxury, if you think about it. How do you want yours cut? It was the craziest thing. I registered to go to culinary school. That night, I decided, “I’m gonna go out with my friends,” I was kinda workaholic. Turns out, it’s like Wine Down Wednesday at this local place that everyone went to. And I run into another friend, who introduces me to Edward. We started talking and we had some wine and… His pick-up line was, “Why the hell are you going to culinary school?” That was my in. I said, “You don’t have to take classes. “I’ll teach you everything you need to know.” And she took me up on that offer and that was the beginning of a beautiful marriage. It’s the one and only time that I really ever used my culinary education to pick up a girl. You know, I just thought it was hilarious how, I don’t know, how aggressive he was. I’m like, “Oh, you’re from New York. “Okay, now I get it.” I was born in Brooklyn, I have Korean parents. I got no business in Kentucky. I had a restaurant in New York that was going very well. You know, I had thought I’d made it. I was 25 and had a successful restaurant that I opened with myself with no investors in downtown Manhattan. We got New York Times, and French Vogue, and all these wonderful reviews and yet, I wasn’t satisfied. There was something about it that was to me, I didn’t feel like it was my food. I felt something was empty about it. And I realized that I didn’t wanna stay in New York. I didn’t realize I was never gonna come back to New York. And I came here, I came to this place. Kentucky, to this very quiet place 17 years ago. There was no gastronomic movement here. I had the freedom and reins to run this tiny restaurant all by myself with no help and no outside influences and I could just do whatever I want. You know, to many, and also to myself at this time, that was a huge failure because I was on top of the world and I had a restaurant in New York City and all of a sudden, I left New York City and all my friends and family and everything I had to go to Louisville, Kentucky. You know, 610 had such a great, important reputation in this town, an historical reputation. And a lot of people were very skeptical that this New York guy was gonna come in and, you know, do it justice. So he really had to work very, very hard to prove himself. For the first six months, I had very few customers. There were nights when I had four or five people dining at my restaurant, you know? We seat 55 and I remember distinctly a night when I had four customers. I can say firsthand that I witnessed one of the hardest working-sorry, I choke up. Really, you know, there were some very awful, depressing nights when she was the only bright thing that, you know, was in my world and she would constantly be my best cheerleader, and my support, and would tell me that you’re gonna do it. She saw something in me that I didn’t necessarily even see in myself. Okay. I witnessed firsthand someone who had the most crushing work ethic that I’ve ever seen in my life. His dedication and his intelligence and his creativity all combined together and then the hours, and hours, and hours that he put into it. Seven or eight months into it, we had our first, you know, fully booked Saturday night. And I remember distinctly, you know, opening the papers and it was all hand-written in pencil and I just remember looking at all the names down the list and going, “Wow.” I felt like I made it from looking at that piece of paper. I still have that piece of paper. Which is funny, right? Because in this day in age, if you’re not fully booked on the first weekend, you’re already a failure. And it took me seven months to get a fully booked Saturday night and most restaurants would have closed by then. I’m so proud of that because I literally worked for every customer that came in the door. And now we have to turn away, you know, people every weekend. So I found, you know, my vision, I found what I wanna cook, and I always say that when I found Kentucky, I also found my better half. To me, family is super important. When all this is said and done, you know, you’re still gonna have your family. It’s why I do all this. You know, it’s funny that like I’ve always cooked for customers, for adults but when I had a daughter and we started cooking for her, it just had a different meaning. This person, this being is relying on you for nutrition and it took on a different weight of responsibility. I became very obsessed with reading, you know, ingredients and food packages and we never ate baby food. I mean, we just made all the food for Arden ever since she was an infant. Don’t open it. You mean like this, don’t open-I always espoused this idea that you can learn from anyone and you can, you know, experience the world and you don’t have to always learn food from a chef but, you know, the idea like what better way to experience that than learning from a three year-old? Kay, one, two, three. Come on, let’s eat these up. I think we got more outside than we did inside. Will you sprinkle a little salt on it for me please? A little bit of salt. You mean this much? Yeah, yeah. Very nice, very nice. [Arden] And a little more. And a little bit more salt for me please. That’s it, no more salt. It’s gonna get too salty. See that? Simple doesn’t mean that it’s easy cooking, simple just means that you’re focused. All your training, all your abilities, all your energy is focused on just a core group of ingredients and how we cook them well. Can you crush the popcorn into little pieces for me? Just very wonderful thing to create a dish that has a few ingredients but that can have explosive memories. Every single person is born with a palate. You know, my daughter’s smelling things, eating things, trying new things, not trying other things. You know, sort of going in and watching her brain work in this very instinctual manner, it’s fascinating. And that’s just me, but you start to understand that there’s a way in which you can cook really deeply just a few simple ingredients. Hey. Thank you. The cooking process doesn’t start with lighting the oven. The cooking process starts here. When I first started cooking, I thought when my day started, you know, when I got to the restaurant in the morning and I put on my uniform and I lit the stove. Like that was, as a chef, my job started there. And it ended when I took off my coat and I clocked out. And as you get older, you’re learning, and you’re like, “Well, you know, that’s a very young and naive way “of thinking about it.” The food starts with who grew my cattle? You know, who’s harvesting the vegetables? Food happens as much outside the kitchen as it does inside the kitchen. So those are one year old so they’ve been like, weened from their mama and now they’re just growing to be beef. And what age will you slaughter? Two years. Two years. Grass-fed beef is obviously fed 100% grass. So that’s a big, important thing, like when you’re going to the farmers market, ask the farmer, “Are they grass-fed and grass finished?” ‘Cause a lot of people claim– ‘Cause usually they were finished on-yeah, yeah, they’re finished on grain anyway. So it’s really important to keep the soil and the grass healthy. Yes, it’s really important. We’re pretty much grass farmers. I mean, we have cattle, but we’re grass farmers. So Derek has his Master’s in forages. Which is grasses. Derek, this is Chef Ed. Hey, man. How you doing? Nice to meet you. You’re the cow-herder. I am. I was pretty impressed with how you got ’em all to move so quickly. When I look at the difference between sort of a commercial corn-fed cow, steak, and one of yours, it’s almost like they come from two different animals. That’s from the grass. I mean, when you’ve got that bland mixed diet of grains, you don’t get the depths of flavor. I think seeing this and seeing how much effort and how much thought and resources go into this, you realize that, you know, that pound of meat that you’re buying at the store just means so much more. It’s hard to look at a piece of beef the same way. People always think like, chefs have this like, magical power, right? Where I can like, touch something and it makes it delicious. Chefs, we don’t create flavor. We just take good flavors and figure out how to combine them in a way on a plate that tastes good together. Number one thing for me is if you would like quality, you should go to a local farm. Honestly, without you, I don’t have a job. I think where we’re going with all this is to sort of bring the farmer into this discussion about how to cook at home. But we can harvest some stuff here? [Pavel] Sure, yeah. Well we got some candy onions over here and these are fresh. We’re just doing a small barbecue, so. You just need a couple, okay. Just need a couple. And these are the Italian heirloom onions. It’s always interesting to see broccoli growing in the wild and how like, you know, we just use this little part and all of this goes to waste. We’ve been figuring, you know, ’cause we throw stuff in our greenhouse and we’ve been figuring out ways to use the leaves, the stems… They’re all really delicious. Right, like the stem of broccoli is really similar to kohlrabi. The leaves are similar to collards. And the stems are delicious. The stems are great. Do vegetables become like your kids? [Pavel] It’s really satisfying to grow carrots. At the farmers market, people love them. I think when you have a vegetable that’s really pure and flavorful, you don’t really have to do much to it. That kinda cooking for me, is really important, especially when we cook at home. You don’t have time, or money, or the staff to make these beautiful like, 10 garnish dishes. You really wanna just focus on the beauty, and flavor, and simplicity of a single beet or a carrot and make that shine, make that the star of the dish. I heard you got some nice cuts of meat for me today. Yeah, I do. What do you got? So we have some flat irons and some skirt steaks. The flank, which will be really nice. Some ribeyes. One of my favorites. Awesome. That’s a favorite. What would you tell me about each cut of meat? Pretty much all of grass-fed beef, like, if you overcook it, it’s gonna get really tough really fast. Right. ‘Cause it’s very lean. [Maggie] Yeah, exactly. All right, I think we’re ready to cook. [Maggie] Great. Like, this all comes from your farm. Yeah, definitely. Pavel’s garden, he grows all this… Will you just cut up whatever you want and we’ll throw it on the grill? [Maggie] Yeah, for sure. So I’m gonna salt these steaks. One of the things that I always tell people, you go to a restaurant and your steak is amazing and then you go home and your steak doesn’t taste like anything and they’re like, “Why is that?” I’m like, “It’s just salt.” It’s like, we salt the shit out of things. So for me, it’s all about timing-let me see, let’s throw the veggies on there first actually. The veggies always take longer. [Maggie] So you can put olive oil right over that? Yes, I do. You will obviously get a little bit of flare up but you oil first and then salt. And then I will do probably the big ass ribeyes first. And let that go on the hottest part of the grill. Do you know what a compound butter is? [Maggie] I don’t. So this is what I call a kalbi butter. This is going to warm and soften the butter just enough. It’s a Korean barbecue where you take a bunch of ginger, and sesame oil, and garlic and you kind of mash it together and make a marinade and you grill it. So what I did was, decided to take those same flavors but then put it into a compound butter. So I microplane the ginger right into there. All right, taste that butter now. Oh my. Is that good? [Maggie] That’s incredible. Basically, I’m gonna baste the steaks with this butter and that soy sauce and the sesame oil, it’s just gonna go right into the steaks. And I’m gonna do when these get done, I’m just gonna throw this into this pan here and let it rest. This is the super fun part. That top side that’s kind of like, sitting in a pool of butter, as I flip that over, that sugar is gonna stick to the steak and it’s gonna caramelize things. These veggies are done. All right, so we got our meat. [Maggie] Great. That’s a ribeye cut but it was cut really thin. Rule of thumb, cook it very quickly. When something is really rare, you will see your indentation a little bit more. See that? [Maggie] Yeah. Oh, wow. And when something is a little bit more well done, it kinda bounces back really quickly. All right, you ready to do a taste test? I would love to do a taste test. And this is how I love to serve it. All right, ready? [Maggie] Yeah. Yum. It’s really nice. Beautiful. Wow. Beautiful cut. And kinda do it around top, there you go. Oh wow, thank you. Oh my. That’s incredible. That’s good, huh? That’s brilliant. I didn’t see you going there. And the flavor is so deep, you can taste the beefiness. Like this has just enough chew. I almost feel like I taste the earth with that cut, you know? It’s a really super nice cut. All right here, cheers. [Maggie] Cheers. A little dip. That’s nice. Do you ever just stop and look out and go, “God damn, this is pretty.” Definitely. Incredible. Thank you very much. Thanks for coming out. My food is really just a story that has been built over many years. My restaurants run so differently than the system that I grew up in. When it comes to creation and creativity and dialogue, it is not the voice of one person that is sort of dominating the entire crew. It’s not a top-down. Prevailing wisdom used to be, you know, if you’re young and you have very little experience, then you must be an idiot and you have nothing to contribute to this dialogue. Like I am the chef, I am the only one whose opinion is valid. That’s good. And many restaurants still work that way and many great restaurants still work that way. But there are a growing number of restaurants, and people, and chefs, and other creatives who are saying, “You know, just because you are young, “just because you don’t have a lot of experience, “just because you are not from Europe, “just because you are a woman, “just because you don’t speak the language, “maybe you still have something to contribute. “Maybe, in fact, we can learn something from you.” My name is Lindsey Ofcacek. I’m the co-founder and director of the Lee Initiative. I founded this project with Chef Edward Lee. You know, two Novembers ago when all of the Me Too movement was breaking in the media, especially with chefs that we all looked up to in this industry, Edward and I sat down and had a conversation about it. We wanted to figure out a way for young women in this industry to be exposed to the good and we wanted women to understand that they deserve respect in this industry so that they didn’t leave it. A mentorship was the best way that we knew how. Most young chefs, their dream is to cook at the James Beard House one day. You know, some chefs never, never get there. It’s something that we have that’s included as the culmination of this program every year and it’s a way for you to showcase what you’ve learned to tell your story. There will be media there, there will be discerning diners. It’s in New York during Fashion Week, it’s huge and its’ a lot of pressure. We want to make sure that they’re successful and that’s where Edward comes in. So we’re tasting all your dishes today. It’s individual plates but then we’re looking at an entire dinner as well. So figuring out how you want to plate your dish, how you want it to look, and then how we’re going to translate that into 85, 90 plates, all right? So we’re here basically to look at your dish. My job is to make your dish better. So I’m gonna taste your dish and I’m gonna figure out how we can make it so that we can execute that 85 times in a half hour, all right? So this dinner goes well, it makes you guys look good, not me. All right? So good luck. And I don’t care if you’re a home cook, or if you’re a chef, or if you’re an accomplished, you know, global catering company, without confidence you can’t do this business. And so our thing is we’re gonna give them real life situations, we’re gonna put them in, you know, real places where the pressure is on and they have to perform. So my dish today is a braised short rib with a barbecue jus. Smoked butternut squash puree, a tomato relish that is a little spicy with a fermented habanero juice. Crispy fingerling potatoes and pepita seeds. Are you gonna braise it here and bring it or are you gonna do it over there? [Breanna] I’m not quite sure. Be careful. The texture of that braised beef is perfect right now. Braised beef can get over-braised because you’re gonna like transport it and it’s gonna be vac bags and… The one thing, when you vac it, if you vac it too hard, it’ll compress the meat and then it’ll again like– Get tough again. Yeah, ’cause you’re basically squeezing out the juices. So you’re almost better braising it and letting it cool down in the braising liquid. You know what I mean? Like putting the whole thing into a big pan and letting it just kind of, you know, store in that liquid so there’s no osmosis of moisture going in and out. Thank you, Breanna. Thank you. All right, so this is a lake trout. It’s been cured in the bourbon barrel soy leaves. We’ve got lima bean hummus, pickled cherry tomatoes. I really did not enjoy my mother’s cooking very much. I was very lucky to have a mom that cooked dinner for us every night but wouldn’t use like, any butter, or oil, or salt so I would kind of cover all of my food in soy sauce and ketchup or like, some combination of the two. And so I really wanted to kind of play with that idea. I like this. By the way, my mom was a horrible cook too. Which is why I learned how to cook. To me, when I see a dish that has 12 different components and elements, you’re trying to hide something so I love the fact that it’s simple and you’re like, “This is it, I’ve got three things. “I got a tomato, a puree, and a trout. “If you don’t like ’em, fuck off.” Thank you. So this is carrot cake. I spiced my carrot cake with cardamom, so it’s a little different. And then in between the layers, are deep fried candied pecans and cream cheese frosting. And then I have deep fried, freeze dried corn and then dehydrated purple heirloom carrots coated with praline sauce. To me, every element is sweet and so you’re just getting sweet on top of sweet on top of sweet on top of sweet. I think there needs to be something that’s savory. And I know the carrot cake stack is supposed to be savory but it’s very sweet, the whole thing. You can have sugar in there, I just think you need something to offset some of that. Okay. Your menu is fantastic. No one gets it right on the first time. We’re gonna tweak our dishes, we’re gonna make ’em better. These are all your dishes, you came up with them, and you’re gonna be cooking them on the biggest stage in America. At the same time, like I want you to be serious, I want you to focus and keep getting better, don’t forget to also have some fun with it. Thank you. This has been great. Thank you, Chef. Thank you, Chef. Home isn’t a physical place, though, right? Home is a state of mind so like, home is when I’m in the kitchen just playing with food and it could be my kitchen in my actual house or it could be at a friend’s restaurant. But if I’m in a kitchen and I’m surrounded by ingredients and I get to play with food, I’m at home. The beauty of food is that you share it. There’s nothing about food that I wanna keep under lock and key. But like, you know, this place we’re headed to right now, gosh, I discovered this place like 10 years ago. And it’s this incredible oriental market in the middle of Louisville, Kentucky. And to me, like finding a discovery like that, I just wanna share it with the world. We were a working class immigrant family so both my parents worked really long hours and my grandmother stayed home and cooked. Whether she was, you know, making anchovy sauce or making miso or fermenting gochujang, like there was always something in the kitchen. There was lots of jars of weird things that were always fermenting. From the time I was a little kid, I was always so curious about what that was that was going on. How are you? How are you? Good? Yep. Your health is good? Yep. Big size. Your dad just called me fat. He calls everyone fat. I hope when we do experiments that they’re not all successes. That would be boring. Part of experimentation is to see what doesn’t work. The only way you’re gonna know what you wanna do is you have to also establish what you don’t want. I didn’t ask for these. Those are mine. What happens when you take a risk is you will absolutely fail. You will absolutely burn something, you will absolutely oversalt something, you will absolutely undercook something. That’s what happens. But when you do that, the brain starts to take over and it’s just instinctual. Your brain starts to go, “Wait a second.” Let’s fry the bologna but let’s try and fry it hard so I get like, a… Like almost like a blackened bologna setup. It’s important to try foods from all different cuisines and things that you haven’t tried before ’cause you’ll also know what you don’t like. And then you start to create your own flavor palate that you know works for you. And that as a foundation is really important when you start to understand how you’re gonna cook and how you’re gonna cook for yourself and what kinda recipes you wanna make. For me, I’m trying to figure out how far you can push the burnt flavor before it becomes, you know, inedible. Edward does have this like, kind of… He burns things every now and then. Let’s grab a notebook and just take some notes on what we like and what we don’t. [Kevin] Yes, Chef. Super brown on each side? You wanna try one of these peaches in cast iron too? Get it real dark? Sure. It’d be nice to do like an unripe peach. He’s still Chef to me. Like he’s always, yeah. He’s my mentor, he’s the guy so I’m always asking him like, “What do you think about this? “What do you think about that?” More, yeah? I definitely think I look at food differently because of him. Peach. I like it. I actually, I like it texturally because it’s unripe. Yeah, it gives it a little bit more of a tooth. Can even take it a little further. You can take it a lot further, I think. That’s awful. And then with strawberries, we’re… Look at that, that’s a beautiful cut. [Kevin] Yeah, that’s beautiful. I don’t like the flavor though. The scallops. That’s interesting. Yeah. Sweet, smoky, fishy. And the funny thing is, it doesn’t taste burnt at all to me. It doesn’t taste burnt but I like the texture. It really falls apart. This is my jam right here. No doubt. When you get a bologna sandwich, you gotta have that sear on it. That’s perfect. Something about the burnt part and it kinda gives way to the fatty. Like that contrast between burnt and fat. Really nice. The pineapple overpowers it though. Makes it too… Just, I guess it’s all the acid. Just totally wipes out all the char of the bologna. They’re all burnt but some things can handle the burn flavor and some things just kinda don’t. If you cook an onion the same way you’ve done every day for the past 10 years and it comes out perfectly every time, that’s not learning. You’re just executing. Learning happens when you decide to take a risk, do something different, and it doesn’t work. Cool, man. Well let’s do this, let’s write some of this down. Let’s put this in our log notes. Maybe we’ll start thinking of a dish for like summer/fall where we can incorporate some of these things. Ed and I met a few years ago. I went to one of the special events at his restaurant. Me and my wife love a good party so as it turns out, everybody else was pretty much leaving and he and I were sitting there having a drink. And he found out some things that I was doing. He said he wanted to do a community event. So we talked and put together an event and he prepared a meal for all of the young people that were in the youth detention. And not just the young people, but all of the workers. As a result, he and I become pretty close over the last few years. I’ve been to his house, he’s been to my house. That’s kinda why we’re here. When he called me, I’m like, “Man, great, you know, “whatever you need,” ’cause if I call him, it’s always whatever I need. Ooh, look like we getting ready to have an interesting party. We gotta cover for it, but… What’s up, folks? Doing all right? You know, it’s about the food but it’s also about communion, it’s about friends, family coming together. I mean, these are the times that you invite your friends and have relationships and they bring their food, someone brings a six pack of beer, some bourbon, and we get together. It’s a participation thing. Everyone gets together and does it together. How you doing, man? Man, I’m doing great. Doing great. Glad we got past this crazy weather. Yeah, what are we doing here? Man, these look nice. Are these ready to go? They’re pretty close. So we got the sweet potatoes on here and the fire’s a little extra hot ’cause I threw some extra coals on there while we were waiting for the weather to pass. Is that enough bacon? ‘Cause I’m gonna eat like that much. [Ben] So that’s the greedy people section. I’m honored that I’m allowed to grill here. Yeah. Well you know, I’m gonna see how you do. All right. I am a professional chef, after all. Yeah, well. I mean, that’s what you call yourself. You got a license or anything? I actually do. I do. Try that. This is my barbecue sauce. Try that. Can you guess what’s in it? [Ben] I definitely tasted the mustard but it wasn’t overpowering mustard, I could just tell it was mustard. Bananas. [Ben] Are you serious? Roasted bananas. You’re the first one to try it. Well I’ma give you a passing grade. Okay. That’s good enough for me. It’s just family, it’s friends, it’s community. You can’t beat this kind of thing in terms of continuing to be human. Can you see some of this bacon is actually getting done. You smelling like smoke, you know, you hear the kids out there screaming, I mean you can’t beat that. Look at those tomahawks. It’s gonna flame up. [Ben] Yeah. Hey, call the fire department. We got a three alarm fire going on here. Holy moly. Call Domino’s Pizza now. At the end of the day, it’s a plate of food. That plate of food, as beautiful and as delicious as it is, it’s gone in a few minutes. How you doing? [Arden] Good. Did you have a good day? [Arden] Yeah. Yeah? So good to see you. [Arden] Can you let me go? Yes. Oh, I thought you were trying-I thought she was trying to give me a hug, she’s trying to get a muffin. The only thing permanent about food is our memories, our experiences, the people, the relationships we make because of food. I think we’re ready. Ben? You say so. So everybody enjoy. Every single person has an incredible story to tell through food. And that’s the beauty of food. Is you have this incredible freedom to do whatever you want. You know, I can teach you a recipe, I can teach you 10 recipes, but that’s not going to mean that you’re gonna learn how to cook. If I wanna teach you a song, I wanna teach you how to play an instrument. The more you cook and the more you practice this art form, the better you get at it and the more you start to trust your own palate. And once you get that, you’re cooking for real. And then it’s limitless what you can do.

About the Instructor

James Beard Award winning writer and best-selling cookbook author Edward Lee takes viewers from the farm to his restaurants and home in Louisville, Kentucky and teaches lessons on his beloved dishes including Fried Chicken with Gochujang Sauce, Oysters and Grits, Cabbage-Steamed Fish, and more.

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