Born in England, David Lee is the third generation in a family line of Chefs. He began his apprenticeship in the village of Hertfordshire where game meats and local produce were in abundance. From there at age 17 he made the move to London and the Hotel Intercontinental in Hyde Park where he worked under the tutelage of Executive Chef Peter Kromberg. Here at Restaurant Le Soufflé David got his first taste of cooking Michelin starred food, and was exposed to such masters as Raymond Blanc and Michel and Albert Roux. Chef Lee’s next destination was the Relais and Chateaux Hotel Fleur du Lac in Switzerland where Eric Allouch developed his sense for how food should taste; i.e. the honesty of the ingredients.
In 1992 David was recruited by Anton Mosimann to work at his eponymous restaurant. It was here, as one of Mosimann’s key team members, that David built a relationship with the Master Chef while travelling across the globe cooking for both media and royalty. Due to his merits and efforts he was soon promoted to sous-chef.
At age 24, David moved to Canada and was hired as the chef de cuisine by Marc Thuet, executive chef/owner at Centro. While working for Thuet David travelled to Napa Valley, Hong Kong, Madrid, Italy and France New York in order to expand his knowledge and craft. At the age of 29, David teamed up with Yannick Bigourdan to acquire Splendido.
Upon the re-opening of the new Splendido in the fall of 2001 David began to take advantage of local ingredients, and built relationships with Canadian farmers. Chef Lee’s most recent trip was to the East Coast and Quebec where he visited the farmers of the Charlevoix region as well as Artisanal cheese makers. David has based his menus on seasonal products and feature the best that Canada has to offer, including Lamb from Halidimand county, caribou Nunavut, Nova Scotia lobster, B.C. Dungeness crab and chanterelles from Cape Breton. David is a proponent of “Sous-Vide” (or “under-vacuum”) cooking, a method that allows for intense flavours and little nutrient loss. If you can’t find him in the kitchen, chances are he is at the Food Terminal or visiting a small farm in order to seek out artisanal products for his next menu.
David and business partner Yannick Bigourdan sold Splendido in the summer of 2009.
In August 2008, David opened Nota Bene, a 7,000 square foot space located at the corner of Queen and University in downtown Toronto. Nota Bene became an instant success and received rave reviews. Soon after opening, Nota Bene was named “Best New Restaurant” by both Toronto Life and enRoute Magazine. Here he continues to showcase the best that Canada has to offer.
In the end, through all of his valuable experiences, David Lee has come to realize that the best food is prepared with the least complication.