How an Accidental Chef Created a Lasting Legacy, Slightly North of Broad


Published:

By: Beverly Willett

Chef Frank Lee, an accidental chef, has elevated cooking to an art form. His classic bistro-style restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina, has developed over the years into a community where people feel at home and are nurtured. 

 

“I’m not a big fan of cookbooks,” celebrated chef Frank Lee says about “The S.N.O.B. Experience,” his new cookbook based on Slightly North of Broad, the restaurant he co-founded in 1993. “If you want to learn how to cook, get your ass in the kitchen and learn.”

It’s hard to peg S.N.O.B. by genre. The menu’s been eclectic from the start. So much of what happens there isn’t easily distilled. Fresh, carefully – and lovingly – prepared food, executed with community in mind sums up Lee’s philosophy. And his cookbook is far more than a mere compendium of recipes.  

He became a chef by accident. In 1973, he and a bunch of teenage friends were goofing around after a yoga class and one of them suggested opening a vegetarian restaurant. So they did. “We were thinking maybe we’d do it for a year or less for a hoot and a holler,” Lee says. But one year turned into six, followed by a trip to France to learn technique. 

“A bunch of young rebel chefs were elevating cooking to an art form. They were sourcing locally and being a part of the community,” he says of his French mentors. After stints elsewhere, Lee opened S.N.O.B., pairing the fundamentals of French cooking with Southern heritage and quality local ingredients reflective of the seasons.  

He banded together with other Charleston chefs and the business community and, over several decades, turned the town into an international food and cultural mecca. Despite the risks and high costs of restaurant ventures, Lee prefers collaboration to competition. 

“A rising tide floats all boats,” he claims. “It’s a lot like sports. Even though they’re busting heads one minute, at the end of the game they’re hugging and slapping each other on the butt.”

Not a fame seeker, Lee’s achieved it nonetheless. “Good Morning America,” “Food & Wine,” “Great Chefs of the South,” and more: they’ve all taken notice.  

“S.N.O.B. is not just a transaction that exchanges money for calories,” Chef explains. “Over the years it has developed into a community spot where people feel at home and are nurtured. Where people know your name, where you like to sit, who your children are.” Kind of like a family restaurant, only a top-star one.  

That’s because Lee understands the cosmic interconnectedness of all things. The timing and orchestration necessary to prepare, plate and serve every single meal. The transformation of seedlings into the perfectly ripe vegetable selected by hand at the local market. 

He pays homage to “the business partners that raised me from an egg.” To the bartenders, managers, kitchen staff, patrons, and suppliers, calling each by name. To his wife who kept him focused and tended their children while he worked long hours mentoring his other family – the kitchen staff, teaching them everything he knows about food and its preparation. And also art and how to get along in the world; practicalities, too, like how to open a bank account. He played opera in the kitchen for inspiration. And he and his partners paid for health insurance for hourly employees!

All are equal in Lee’s kitchen. And the restaurant’s warehouse location with exposed ducts and open kitchen reinforce this egalitarian view. 

"He became a chef by accident."

Chef Frank Lee Celebrates “The S.N.O.B Experience” Cookbook

Chef Frank Lee recently announced the release of his cookbook, “The S.N.O.B Experience.”  Lee provides more than just a compilation of the classic recipes that played foundational roles in the establishment of his restaurant. He shares stories and insights into his role as a pioneer in the Charleston culinary community.  The cookbook celebrates Lee’s 23 yearlong dedication to Slightly North of Broad.  

The cookbook is a compilation of SNOB classics, long-running seasonal plates and many of the side dishes and sauces that played foundational roles in establishing the restaurant’s loyal following since it opened its doors in 1993.

To find out why Chef Frank Lee thinks the pigeon is the best bird ever, subscribe now or pick up the February/March issue of South Magazine.

Download the digital issue now!

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Events Calendar

  • A Savannah Scavenger Hunt: Historic Savannah Adventure

    Feb 19, 2020
    8:00 AM - 10:00 PM @ Savannah

    Explore beautiful Savannah. Steeped in Civil War history, you will be sure to find some new-to-you spots. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a...

  • Prohibition Cocktail Classes

    Jun 22, 2020
    6:00 PM @ American Prohibition Museum

    Monday & Tuesday evening from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Prohibition Cocktail Classes at Congress Street Up inside the American Prohibition Museum....

  • Free Fort Pulaski Days

    Jan 20, 2020
    All Day @ Fort Pulaski National Monhument

    Fort Pulaski National Monument will have six entrance fee-free days in 2020. The dates for 2020 are: ● Monday, January 20 – Martin...

  • First Fridays in Starland

    Jun 26, 2020
    6:00 PM - 9:00 PM @ Starland District

     Monthly arts event in Savannah’s Starland District, with street fair, art market or gallery shows. Starland doesn’t like to...

  • Georgia State Clogging Festival

    Oct 03, 2020
    12:00 PM - 6:00 PM @ Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds

    For those that love clogging, this competition is for you! This NCHC Sanctioned competition will offer all Sanctioned Categories, Solos, and...

  • Nine Line Run for Wounded 5K/10K

    Oct 03, 2020
    6:00 PM - 10:00 PM

    Join the Nine Line Foundation and Nine Line Apparel this Armed Forces Day, Oct 3, 2020, for our 7th Annual 5K/10K Run for...

  • Casting Crowns: Only Jesus Tour w/Special Guest Matthew West

    Oct 08, 2020
    All Day @ Savannah Civic Center

    GRAMMY® winning multi-platinum group Casting Crowns has announced plans to extend its widely popular Only Jesus Tour into 2020, following...

  • 16th Annual Tybee Island Pirate Fest

    Oct 08, 2020
    All Day @ Tybee Island

    Escape the ordinary… if only for a weekend. Join us for the 16th Annual Tybee Island Pirate Fest! Entertainment includes live music, pirate...

  • Georgia Mountain Fall Festival

    Oct 09, 2020
    10:00 AM - 7:00 PM @ Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds

    Look forward to the 2020 Fall Festival! With its mild temperatures and beautiful scenery there is no better place to be than the North Georgia...

  • 2020 SMF Fall Concert — Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers

    Oct 09, 2020
    8:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Lucas Theatre for the Arts

    Part of a new fall concert series of rescheduled 2020 Savannah Music Festival performances, Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers will...

  • Roots & Boots 90’s Electric Throwdown tour featuring Sammy Kershaw, Aaron Tippin and Collin Raye

    Oct 10, 2020
    7:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds

    The Roots & Boots 90’s Electric Throwdown Tour featuring legendary country artists Aaron Tippin, Sammy Kershaw, and Collin Raye is coming to the...

  • Ronnie Milsap and John Conlee

    Oct 17, 2020
    7:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds

     Local native, Ronnie Milsap, takes the stage with Country music singer, John Conlee Ronnie Milsap Born blind (his family thought it was...

  • 2020 SMF Fall Concert — Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis

    Oct 17, 2020
    8:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Johnny Mercer Theatre

    Part of a new fall concert series of rescheduled 2020 Savannah Music Festival performances, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton...

  • Pickin' & Shuckin' with Beer & Bubbles

    Oct 17, 2020
    All Day @ Tybee Post Theater

    A toast to island style in a sunset evening with roasted oysters and pig pickin' on the lawn in front of the beautifully restored Tybee Post...

  • Appalachian Brew, Stew & Que Festival

    Oct 24, 2020
    11:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds

    The 2020 Appalachian Brew, Stew, & Que Festival brings you great craft breweries from Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina & Alabama. There will...

  • Savannah Crime Expo

    Oct 24, 2020
    All Day @ Savannah Hyatt Regency Inn

    Welcome to the Savannah Crime Expo October 24, 2020. Forensic experts & special guest speakers come together to share their unique experiences....

  • The Savannah Food & Wine Fest

    Nov 09, 2020
    All Day @ Savannah

    The Savannah Food & Wine Festival celebrates the best the south has to offer in the quintessential southern, hostess city. The festival brings...

  • 2020 SMF Fall Concert — Mandolin Orange

    Nov 11, 2020
    8:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Lucas Theatre for the Arts

    Part of a new fall concert series of rescheduled 2020 Savannah Music Festival performances, Mandolin Orange will perform live at the...

  • Festival of Laughs

    Nov 14, 2020
    All Day @ Savannah Civic Center

    Each year, the Festival of Laughs unites some of the most popular names in comedy on stage. The highly celebrated entertainers will bring down...

  • GRAY'S REEF EXPO: CELEBRATING NOAA'S 50TH ANNIVERSARY

    Nov 21, 2020
    All Day @ Rousakis Plaza

    “Gray’s Reef Expo: Celebrating NOAA’s 50th anniversary” is November 21 & 22, 2020 on River Street in Savannah, Georgia. FREE to the public,...


Show More...

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Scenes of the South

Showing Appreciation for Savannah's First Responders

Harris Lowry Manton LLP presents their 7th Annual First Responder Appreciation Event in Savannah, GA.

Words of Friendship

Get your phone out. After you read This, you’ll be calling your childhood best friend.

Your New Life Awaits

For Ric Hollifield and Daniella Squicquero at The Hilton Head Life and The Beaufort Life, finding your dream home is just part of helping you write your next chapter.

Ring the Bell Twice

When children get to the end of cancer treatment, ringing the bell to signify its end is perhaps the most joyous celebration of their lives. That wasn’t necessarily the case with 13-year-old Lily Stuckey. For her, ringing the bell after two and a half years of harsh treatment was a mixture of joy and sadness.

Cadets of Salvation

Four graduates of Savannah Salvation Army’s intensive life rehabilitation program strike a pose and share their stories.

Sen. Kelly Loeffler's Savannah Stopover

Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler visited The Desoto Savannah Hotel Monday on her campaign trail across the US.

Savannah's Gourmet Seafood and Spirits Festival Rollin' on the River

Supporting the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Coastal Empire, Savannah's Gourmet Seafood and Spirits Festival continued with stunning views accompanied classic Savannah vibes at this unique opportunity to see the skyline from the river.

A Fabulous Derby With Woodford Reserve

Since we missed Derby Day earlier this year - Savannah's Gourmet Seafood and Spirits Festival recreated it with distancing and fresh air top of mind! Under the terraces of the Perry Lane, Woodford Reserve Mint Juleps were served with traditional derby cuisine and music to match.

Tybee Island Spikeball Champion Crowned

Some say that if volleyball and foursquare had a baby it’d be named Spikeball. To make it even more fun, the winner of rock, paper, scissors gets to pick the side or serve.

Zoom in to Kendra Scott's Newest Collection

Ashley Borders shares a sneak peak of Kendra Scott's latest jewelry collection with South.