He­man Lee on run­ning two kitchens at once

With su­per-hu­man work ethic and restau­rant chops in this veins, the chef/co-owner has big plans for what’s next.

The Coast - - FRONT PAGE - BY IS­ABEL RUITENBEEK

Hav­ing suc­cess­fully started one restau­rant, open­ing El Chino was less daunt­ing. It helped that the two had al­ready ex­pe­ri­enced fail­ure, when they had to close Ro­bie Street Ex­press, the cafe that used to oc­cupy El Chino’s space.

Like the seafood restau­rant that wasn’t meant to be, El Chino was also in­spired by time the duo spent in Cal­i­for­nia, work­ing at Lee’s aunt’s Chi­nese restau­rant. Lots of the kitchen staff there were from Mex­ico and South Amer­ica, work­ing to­gether with Chi­nese peo­ple. For staff meals, both groups cooked their own food and shared.

“We’d be eat­ing like tacos and noo­dles,” Lee says. “It just worked.”

So El Chino was born, and Lee hasn’t stopped since. On days off he catches up on daily life—walk­ing his two Samoyeds, clean­ing the house, pay­ing bills, date nights. Cook­ing takes a back seat, re­placed by fast food and in­stant noo­dles.

Lee says he learned to work hard from his dad, and was even set to take over the fam­ily restau­rant in Toronto. Then he moved to Nova Sco­tia in­stead.

“We have a good re­la­tion­ship,” he says of his fa­ther. “I just didn’t want some­body peer­ing over my shoul­ders ev­ery day and telling me what to do.”

Yet it seems his dad’s hands-on style and high stan­dards are qual­i­ties Lee also in­her­ited, and are both a bless­ing and a curse in the kitchen.

“If I see some­body do­ing some­thing slowly it’s like, ‘I can do this twice as fast as you can, why am I pay­ing you to do this?’” he says. “I take on too much and I try to do ev­ery­thing my­self.”

De­spite this de­sire to be in charge, he hopes that some­day El Chino will run it­self with­out him—not so he can go on va­ca­tion, but so that he can open a Chi­nese bar­be­cue joint.

“That’s just our life­style,” he says. “It’s like, ‘Oh we have free time, let’s fill it up with more work.’”

as­sess­ment pro­cesses to identify sys­temic prob­lems be­fore ma­jor in­ci­dents oc­cur. That rec­om­men­da­tion is con­sis­tent with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s

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