Dubbed the “Rising Star Chef of the Year” by the James Beard Foundation in 2005, Christopher Lee has proven that he’s no flash in the pan. The accomplished chef has opened restaurants in Miami and New York. Most recently he gave us one more reason to visit East Passyunk with his latest endeavor, Sophia’s. Though Lee has been all over for work, he’s back in Philly and we intend to keep him around.
How’s it going at Sophia’s so far?
It’s going great. We’re focused on having a strong neighborhood presence. That’s why it’s a person’s name for the restaurant – it makes it more personal. It’s like going to someone’s house for great food and great conversation.
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You’ve opened Sophia’s, along with other restaurants in the past. What’s it like creating an entire menu from scratch?
The menu is the easy part, and everything else is tough in my opinion. If you make a menu that’s seasonal, you sit down and see what products are available and think about how to utilize them. You follow a concept.
You’ve worked in other cities like Miami and New York. How does working in Philly differ from these places?
Well the weather’s nicer here. I’m not a fan of the 100-degree days in Miami. Philly is a great city; it’s one of my favorites. The work ethic here is really great. In Miami there’s a lot more partying, and in New York it’s very cutthroat. In New York, people work for six months then leave so they can work with as many chefs as possible. In Philly there’s more dedication and loyalty. Philly balances life and work.
Where are you living?
Right now I’m shacking up with friends or couch-surfing when I’m working. I don’t live in the city yet because I’m not going to move the family before the school year is over.
Do you have a neighborhood preference?
I’m not sure yet. I know I don’t want to live in Rittenhouse, it’s a little too pricey. I’m a more arty guy anyway, so maybe Old City or somewhere in South Philly.
Is there anything in Philly you haven’t done yet that you would like to do?
I’ve never made it to a Phillies or Eagles game. And I like sports!