Louisville chef Edward Lee prepares State Dinner at the White House

Louisville celebrity chef Edward Lee will soon be serving one of the most elite crowds of his career.
Published: Apr. 24, 2023 at 4:36 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Louisville celebrity chef Edward Lee will soon be serving one of the most elite crowds of his career.

The owner of 610 Magnolia was selected to serve at the White House for Wednesday’s State Dinner honoring the President of South Korea.

“I was shocked quite frankly,” Lee said Monday. “I was not expecting it.”

Lee’s usual bright smile and easy-going personality might suggest he is worry-free as he prepares for the challenge, but the Top Chef-alum said he’s about to feel the heat in the kitchen like he has never felt it before.

“In some ways, it’s not just a dinner,” Lee said. “I mean, there is diplomacy involved. There’s a lot involved here, so everything is so thoughtfully planned out from the china to the plates, the flowers, the food, the whole evening is really amazingly curated.”

Lee was selected by First Lady Jill Biden for his Korean-influenced American cuisine. He spent two days preparing a menu and samples for the First Lady’s approval.

“There was a lot of collaboration with the menu about what this dinner means, the history of it, how different chefs over the years have executed their dinners,” Lee said. “There is a lot of heavy hitters that have cooked these State Dinners in the past. Chefs like Marcus Samuelsson and Anita Lo. So, a lot to live up to a lot of big shoes to fill.”

Lee said there will be no room for error.

“This is worse than Top Chef, believe me,” Lee said laughing. “This is about as high pressure as it gets.”

Lee said White House guests will taste a blend of US and Korean influences. He said he will not have a lot of time to savor the opportunity.

“You know, as a chef, I think when you’re in the moment or something, you’re very much driven by the process,” Lee said. “Chefs don’t really have time for reflection. We kind of just do things, we execute, and we move onto the next thing.”

That “next thing” for Lee will be the Kentucky Derby. He will be getting back to work preparing his restaurant, 610 Magnolia, for the busy season.

He will also be opening a new restaurant May 2 on East Main Street, a Korean steakhouse called Nami.