Chef Edward Lee on Fatherhood and Southern Hospitality

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Chef Edward Lee on Fatherhood and Southern Hospitality
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Chef Edward Lee on Fatherhood and Southern Hospitality

Chef Edward Lee dishes on his new book, becoming a father and on his biggest pet peeve in Southern cooking.

Before moving to Louisville in 2001, Lee knew little about Southern cooking. "The way I was introduced to Southern food was mostly through people's homes," he explains. "As I met people, they would invite me to their homes for dinner or lunch, and it was during those encounters when I was introduced to things like cornbread, collard greens, barbecue and all that."

Smoke & Pickles is a reflection of this Southern hospitality as he refers to its contents as "home recipes" as opposed to "restaurant recipes."

The idea of "home recipes" was a central factor in helping Lee narrow down recipes to include in the book. Each recipe was tested in a home kitchen and, if it required too many pots and pans, it didn't make the cut. Affordability of ingredients and tools was also a consideration throughout.

"I wanted [recipes] that people could make at home without an $800 blender," he explains. "I think the true spirit of Southern food is in the hospitality with which it is served; it is about wanting to open your home up and share."

Image Credit: Alex Wilson

While Lee asserts that Southern cooking is really all about heart, he recommends having a few tools handy. A nice cast iron pan and a dutch oven are great additions to your kitchen. "[Dutch ovens] are expensive, but if you treat it right it will last you forever," he explains.

Additionally, he recommends growing fresh herbs either in a garden or in a potted plant. "There is nothing like fresh cilantro picked right from the garden or from a plant," says Lee. "By the time you get it from your supermarket, it has already wilted."

And when it comes to Southern cooking, the one thing to toss from your kitchen (or perhaps just to move to the back of your cupboard) is your olive oil. According to Lee, "[using] things like lard and bacon fat isn't just to be shocking; there is a reason [for it]." He has seen many people try to substitute olive oil for these ingredients, but foods like collard greens are flavorless without them and even with olive oil.

Image Credit: Pankaj & Insy Shah/Getty Images

The busy chef, author and new father's only Father's Day request? "My wish list for Father's Day would be a full eight hours of sleep and a tall glass of bourbon on the rocks," he says. "If I could have that, we'd be golden."

Image Credit: Getty Images

For a taste of Smoke & Waffles, try Lee's chicken and waffles recipe from the book. In it, he explains, "the vinegar [in the adobo broth] brightens the richness of the fried chicken and helps with digestion."

Get the Recipe: Adobo-Fried Chicken and Waffles

For a lighter option from the book, experiment with this yellow squash soup recipe. Of the recipe, Lee pens, "a refreshing soup can taste like summer in a bowl. This is a delicious start to a light meal or a smart accompaniment to a toasted sandwich."

Get the Recipe: Yellow Squash Soup with Cured Strawberries

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"I haven't slept in weeks," admits Chef Edward Lee as he takes a seat in our office. The Louisville-based chef and former Top Chefcontestant not only debuted his first cookbook, Smoke & Pickles, this past month but also became a father.

"It's incredible," explains Lee of becoming a parent. "It adds another layer to your life that's so different, especially for us restaurant people. I look forward to the days when she gets older and we can cook together." For now, Lee is just figuring out a new type of fare—baby food—and letting his new role as Dad sink in.

His other new role, as author, came about as a reaction to his somewhat unusual personal story. "A Korean kid from Brooklyn moving to the South and becoming a chef is a story in and of itself. It's unlikely," he explains. Lee found himself constantly being asked how he ended up in Louisville and felt that Smoke & Pickles could be his complete, "long answer." The volume not only tells Lee's intriguing story but also features 130 recipes that truly merge all elements of his tale from his Korean heritage to his late-found love of the South.

The recipes are a result of parallels Lee noticed between Korean food and Southern food. "A lot of Southern food did not come from the top down, it really rose from the masses, the poor class," explains Lee. "It is hard not to see that that is the same thing with kimchi and all the stuff that we grew up eating." One of the first recipes Lee worked on that merged the two cuisines was, in fact, kimchi and collard greens. "[Both Korean and Southern foods] are now in vogue which represents to me a real triumph of that kind of cuisine," he says. "I love to see that transformation."

Check out the slideshow above for more on Smoke & Pickles, recipes from the book and Lee's ultimate Father's Day wish.

Today only, win Smoke & Pickles and other items dad will love in our KD Finds Father's Day Giveaway. Learn more here.

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