Food Network Star finalist Eric Lee started this week as the Executive Chef for the campus. His culinary vision will drive all University dining venues, including Prelude at the Green Music Center and the new Student Center which is scheduled to open in fall 2013.
A graduate of UCLA (where he studied sociology) and the Culinary Institute of America, Lee has been a resident of Sonoma County for the past 10 years. He currently resides in Petaluma with his wife, who is also a chef. Lee, who was recently a finalist on the popular television series, "The Next Food Network Star," is well-known for his mastery of food and wine pairing. He distinguishes his food by deconstructing and re-creating classic dishes using alternative ingredients and cooking methods. Lee is also an accomplished food photographer.
"The fact that [the University] is located in the heart of the Wine Country, where some of the best ingredients and products are grown and raised, would be exciting for just about anyone," says Lee. "But having been a chef for the past 11 years at Healdsburg's Simi Winery, it fills a very special place in my heart."
Lee will play an essential role at Prelude at the Green Music Center, an upscale restaurant and special event center adjacent to the university's newest concert venue, Weill Hall. With an acclaimed indoor/outdoor setting that features views of the Sonoma Mountains, Prelude puts a modern twist on traditional Wine Country fare. Working hand-in-hand with John Locher, Executive Sous Chef for Prelude, Lee will begin to infuse his unique style into the menu in the coming weeks.
"My goal when I was on the Next Food Network Star was to spread the popularity of the Wine Country," Lee says. "Prelude will allow me to do just that to a local, national, and global audience."
Upon its completion in fall 2013, the University's newest building, the highly anticipated Student Center, will also fall under Lee's culinary direction. Featuring twelve dining concepts under one roof, the Student Center will house both the residential dining facilities, which cater to the university's 3,000 on-campus residents, as well as retail areas which focus on the entire campus population of more than 10,000.
"The brand new Student Center will allow for me to do what I do best: express my passion for food and travel," says Lee. "Working with newly appointed Executive Sous Chef, Shaun Dayton, the new Student Center will allow me to dance around the globe to create exciting food for the entire campus community."
With the addition of the new Student Center, SSU will be home to the largest ballroom in Sonoma County, greatly increasing its capacity to host a wide array of conferences and special events.
Find out more about our new chef at http://www.chefericlee.com