In the most-unexpected news story of 2012, former superstar cook Christopher Lee is coming back to Philly in the near future. Lee, who once helmed the four-bell Striped Bass during the Stephen Starr era, is teaming up with Joe Massara of Salt & Pepper at 1623 E. Passyunk Avenue. Whether or not they're going to keep the name going forward, or if they'll shut down and re-tool has yet to be decided, but it's a done deal.
Lee is one of the most decorated cooks to ever work in Philly's modern food scene. Besides his LaBan lovefest, Lee was named the Rising Star Chef of the Year by the James Beard Foundation in 2005, named a Top Ten Best New Chef by Food & Wine, earned Striped Bass the Best New American Restaurant by Travel + Leisure in 2004, and scored Gilt in NYC two Michelin stars when he moved up north to take over the kitchen. So, yeah, he's pretty good.
Is Philly becoming a destination for accomplished chefs looking to jump into, or in this case, back into the spotlight? Lee's return, in addition to the recent announcement of Peter Serpico heading for South Street, could signal a wave of cooks looking for national face time without getting lost in the hustle and bustle of an overcrowded NYC scene.