During his brief appearance in Hong Kong, working with two of the city’s best chefs, Korean-american culinary provocateur Corey Lee showed Charmaine Mok why fine dining deserves a new definition
When it comes to the new generation of chefs, particularly those hailing from beyond the borders of Europe or North America, there’s a disingenuous tendency to prescribe a certain type of narrative to their journey. As for Corey Lee, the Korean-born, American-raised chef behind the three-Michelin-starred Benu restaurant in San Francisco—where items on his 20-course tasting menu include challenging ingredients such as century egg and fermented foods— it’s tempting to try to siphon a certain essence from his words and his work. But Lee is adept at dodging the obvious answers, and has the verve and tone of a culinary intellect: a true thinker who takes his craft as seriously as philosophy.
Lee was in Hong Kong this spring to carry out an ambitiously brief two-night job, with each evening as different as chalk and cheese. First, he hosted a stand-up snacksand-booze party with Matt Abergel at the lauded Yardbird. The following night, it was a multi-course feast in the classic environs of The Landmark Mandarin Oriental with the assistance of culinary director Richard Ekkebus. We met the morning after the latter dinner, with Lee looking remarkably freshfaced despite a supposedly debauched night with both chefs at Under Bridge Spicy Crab, featuring multiple bottles of Johnnie Walker. We would spend the next hour with Lee and