“I want you to feel like you’re in your own kitchen,” said Chef Lee as he welcomed Cheray Corrado, Max MacDonald, Natalie Van Apeldoorn and their guests into Lee, his Toronto restaurant. Together with Jacob’s Creek Reserve, Chatelaine hosted a one-of-a- kind event: Three lucky contest winners spent the day with the international celebrity chef and Chopped Canada judge as he taught them how to create two of his restaurant’s dishes.
The eager students began by whipping up Black Pepper Charred Tuna Sashimi and Tuna Tartare with Avocado Compote and Crispy Taro Chips. Chef Lee showed everyone how to use a blowtorch to char a perfect crust on tuna steaks, and although some were nervous, he cheered them on: “You guys are awesome! You might even get a job here,” he laughed. “Otherwise, you’ll be chopped!” After a few attempts (some students had to redo their tuna to meet Chef’s standards), Max went in for a bite: “I made this? It’s really good!” Chef Lee suggested yuzu juice when Natalie thought her dish could use more acidity. “Chef Lee was very patient and kind, particularly with me being a lefty and having zero knife skills,” Natalie said after the event. “He was comfortable and funny, and I felt welcome to try new things.”
Next up, Coffee Marinated Ostrich with Poached Daikon, Roasted Black Quinoa, Squash Purée and Pumpkin Seeds. For this multi-component dish, Chef Lee gave everyone a task—reducing the sauce, chopping the daikon, tying fresh herbs into garnishes. When all of the elements were ready, Chef Lee worked his plating magic—his favourite part of the process. “Plating is all about personal preference,” he said. “Base it on the way the colours work together.” The result was a treat for the eyes.
As for the taste buds? The winners had to wait until they returned for their private dinner and wine tasting to find out!
Dinner & Wine Tasting
Behind a door at the back of the restaurant’s bustling kitchen, in a private dining room with a fireplace and garden, our contest winners enjoyed a sensational five-course meal, designed, prepared and hosted by Chef Lee himself and paired with Jacob’s Creek Reserve wines. First up was Chef Lee’s Singaporean- Style Slaw, paired with Jacob’s Creek Reserve’s crisp and citrusy riesling. Next, tuna tartare was paired with chardonnay, slow-braised beef with shiraz, and marinated ostrich with cabernet sauvignon.
The meal ended on a sweet note, and not just because of the delectable chocolate- nougat-filled rice dumplings: Chef Lee joined everyone at the table as they lingered over glasses of wine. A foodie fantasy, indeed!
Watch our behind-the-scenes video below, and read our one-on-one interview with Chef Lee here.