Last winter, Kris Okgeon Lee, a long-time chef de cuisine at Toronto’s Buca Osteria & Bar, took a break from packing takeout to head back to Seoul to visit his parents. While there, he heard that Fairmont’s all-new Ambassador Seoul was hiring. Now, Lee is head chef for their posh European restaurant, Mariposa, and rooftop bar M29.
C100B: How did this decision come about?
Kris Okgeon Lee: While I was in Canada for 12 years, I only went to see my parents four times and I always felt really sorry about that. The pandemic was also a factor. It was very hard having to rely mechanically on takeout and not be able to interact with my customers and actively develop new dishes. Everyone in hospitality now knows how that feels.
C100B: Is Covid playing out differently there?
KOL: Delivery and pickup services like Uber Eats have played a leading role here, too. At Mariposa [which is open for indoor dining], we have sterilization gates at the entrance, require QR [quick response] code scans before entry so we can monitor guest movement, and [we] have hand sanitizer stations throughout. Everyone is doing the best they can.
C100B: What are you cooking?
KOL: My mentor Rob Gentile taught me that the role of a chef is to let diners experience the natural flavours of the best ingredients, cooked with accurate technique and simply plated. Right now, I’m putting most of my effort into sourcing the best ingredients. We just signed on to develop and promote Korean caviar.
Photo Credit: Lee Yongi