10 questions with Hotel June’s Chef de Cuisine Angie Lee
By Kamala Kirk
A nod to the free-thinking spirit and soul of California, Hotel June is located just minutes away from the beach, Playa Vista and LAX. The hotel’s breezy Baja-inspired Caravan Swim Club offers guests a poolside gathering place and an elevated terrace where they can enjoy an assortment of vibrant dishes including local caught grilled fish, organic steaks and seasonal salads.
As Chef de Cuisine for Property Hospitality’s Hotel June and its outdoor restaurant, Caravan Swim Club, Angie Lee works alongside the property’s F&B partner Steve Livigni to craft an experience that showcases ingredients and influences inspired by a road trip from Baja to Santa Barbara.
Growing up, Lee enjoying cooking for her family at a young age. After studying at Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena, she traveled to Lasarte, Spain for a highly coveted externship at three-star Michelin Restaurant Martin Berasategui. Lee previously held positions at the five-star Peninsula Beverly Hills and the Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel, where she expedited dinner service for THEBlvd Restaurant and Lounge.
Lee further honed her culinary and large-scale event management skills as Sous Chef at The London West Hollywood, in addition to planning innovative, health-conscious and seasonal menus as Chef de Cuisine at Santa Monica Proper Hotel.
We chatted with Lee, who shared what sparked her initial interest in the culinary arts, the signature dish she’s best known for, the kitchen tool she can’t live without and more.
What got you interested in cooking?
As a kid, I always loved trying out recipes and creating dishes for my family. My mom cooked mostly Korean food so I would try making “American” food. In high school, my mom became a single mom and I started cooking for my brothers. They would tell me that they got tired of the same thing for dinner so I started to experiment and cook more. I would watch them clean their plates and it would make me happy to watch them enjoy the food I made. This continued in college when I cooked for my roommates.
How did you become a chef?
I learned to be a chef through mentors and experience from working in various kitchens.
Most important thing you learned in culinary school?
Mise en place, which means “putting everything in its place.” It’s very important to be organized in the kitchen. I strongly believe it’s the foundation, as well as time management.
What’s the first dish you learned to make really well?
I learned to make soups very well. To me, comfort food is in soups. Learning to make soups well then led me to making sauces well. Sauces are everything to me.
Signature dish you’re known for?
My current signature dish at Caravan Swim Club would be the Baja shrimp tacos. And of course it would include two different “sauces” as well as the salsa verde that it’s paired with.
Favorite ingredient to cook with and why?
My favorite ingredient is garlic. I love garlic – it could be my Korean background. But I always feel like there’s something missing from a dish when there’s no garlic. I like to roast it, confit it, pickle it or grill it. You can definitely see me adding it to any of my soups.
Kitchen tool you can’t live without?
Definitely a nice sharp knife. Dull knives are the worst.
Who do you look up to in the culinary world?
I look up to all the chefs before me and every chef I’ve worked for. There was always something to learn from each and every one of them. That’s the great part of the culinary world, it’s a world where you pass on techniques and knowledge to the next chef and it keeps going and spreading.
What do you love about being a chef?
I love seeing and hearing people enjoy the food I make. It makes all the hard work rewarding.
If you could have a meal with anyone, who would it be?
To be honest, eating with my family makes me the happiest. It’s because of them I truly became inspired to be a chef.
For more information, visit thehoteljune.com