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.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

South's Greatest Photographers 2018

We're looking for the greatest, most creative photographers. If that is you, or you know of any, don't hesitate to nominate!

South's Greatest Kids Contest 2017

When it comes to cute, the kids of the South are all way above average! Share the cuteness and nominate your kids today.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Events Calendar

  • Charleston Cars & Coffee

    Jun 17, 2017
    7:30 AM - 10:00 AM @ Mount Pleasant Towne Centre

    7:30am - 10:00am  FREE ADMISSION  Mount Pleasant Towne Centre,1712 Towne Centre Way,Mt Pleasant, SC 29464,USA A bunch of car and...

  • Charleston Farmers Market

    Jun 17, 2017
    8:00 AM - 2:00 PM @ Marion Square

    8:00am - 2:00pm  FREE ADMISSION  Marion Square,329 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29403,USA Join us every Saturday in beautiful Marion...

  • Rodin: The Human Experience

    Aug 07, 2017
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Jepson Center

    Rodin: The Human Experience presents a selection of 32 figures in bronze by Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), the French sculptor who left behind 19th...

  • Scenic Impressions: Southern Interpretations from the Johnson Collection

    Oct 13, 2017
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Telfair Academy

    When the world gets urban, the South gets Southern. That’s one way to sum up Scenic Impressions: Southern Paintings from the Johnson Collection,...

  • #art912, Avanguardia

    Nov 17, 2017
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Jepson Center

    Avanguardia, an exhibition by Savannah-based artist Lisa D. Watson (American, b. 1967), explores the encroachment of the constructed environment on...

  • Kirk Varnedoe: In the Middle at the Modern

    Sep 22, 2017
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Jepson Center

    Can you have an art exhibition without any artworks? Is a curator an artist? Who or what decides an object’s value? Through the lens of an art...

  • Martial Arts Kung Fu for Kids

    Jun 12, 2017
    4:00 PM @ Atlantic Warriors Wing Chun Kung Fu

    A way for the kids to work hard and laugh hard. It teaches life lessons through physical activity. Atlanticwarriors.org $129 monthly (904)...

  • Party at the Point!

    Jun 16, 2017
    5:30 PM - 9:00 PM @ Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina

    5:30pm-9:00pm  Charleston Harbor Resort,20 Patriots Point Road,Mount Pleasant, SC 29464,USA COST: $7 Join us every Friday at the Charleston...

  • Margarita Monday Sail on the Palmetto Breeze

    Jun 19, 2017
    6:00 PM - 7:30 PM @ Red's Icehouse

    6:00pm- 7:30pm  Red's Icehouse,100 Church St,Mt Pleasant, SC 29464,USA COST: $35/person. Ladies for $25 per Board PALMETTO BREEZE,...

  • ALJ Monday Night Ceramics

    Jun 12, 2017
    6:00 PM

    Students will learn how to build ceramic sculptures as well as hand crafting with various techniques in form and technique $60 for 4 sessions, $80...

  • Reggae Nights Summer Concert: Mystic Vibrations

    Aug 04, 2017
    7:30 PM - 7:30 PM @ James Island County Park

  • Jacob Lawrence, Lines of Influence at SCAD Museum of Art

    Sep 07, 2017
    All Day @ SCAD Museum of Art

    Jacob Lawrence Lines of Influence Sept. 7, 2017 - Feb. 4, 2018 The SCAD Museum of Art and the Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence...

  • Animal Instinct

    Jul 15, 2017
    All Day @ Jepson Center

    The diversity of animal imagery in Animal Instinct reveals the wide-ranging roles animals inhabit in an anthropocentric world. From wild...

  • "Rodin: The Human Experience"

    Sep 01, 2017
    All Day @ Jepson Center

    Rodin: The Human Experience presents a selection of 32 figures in bronze by Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), the legendary French sculptor whose...

  • The Candy Apple Happy Hour

    Jun 13, 2017
    3:00 PM @ The Candy Apple Cafe

    Repeats every day until Sun Jun 18 2017  11 am Cocktail Artist Series The restaurant will serve cocktails inspired by select Broadway...

  • "Savannah Live!" @ The Savannah Theatre

    Nov 02, 2017
    8:00 PM - 8:00 PM @ The Savannah Theatre

    222 Bull St, Savannah, GA 31401 8:00pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays Admission: $40 for adults and $20 for children This dazzling...

  • Chocolate Bar Your Way Class

    Jun 14, 2017
    4:00 PM - 5:00 PM @ Sweet Pete's Candy

    4 pm sweetpetescandy.com Learn the art of old fashioned candy making in one of Sweet Pete’s Candy’s most popular classes. Sweet...

  • ALJ Cartooning and Illustration Classes @ Balis Community center

    Jun 14, 2017
    6:30 PM - 8:30 PM @ Balls Community Center

    Cartooning Illustration Class with William McMahan Wednesdays 6:30pm-8:30pm and/or Saturdays Noon-2:30pm • Ages 12 - Adult • All...

  • "Rewind" @ The Savannah Theatre

    Nov 01, 2017
    8:00 PM - 8:00 PM @ The Savannah Theatre

    222 Bull St, Savannah, GA 31401 8:00pm on Wednesdays and Fridays Admission- $40 for adults and $20 for children Rewind back to the first...

  • "A Christmas Tradition" @ The Savannah Theatre

    Nov 23, 2017
    8:00 PM @ The Savannah Theatre

    222 Bull St, Savannah, GA 31401 8:00pm on Tuesdays- Saturdays, 4:00pm on Saturday and Sundays Admission- $40 for adults and $20 for children...


Show More...

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Scenes of the South

Savannah Children's Book Festival 2017

This Saturday brought thousands of visitors to Forsyth Park for the annual Savannah Children's Book Festival. Hosted by the Live Oak Public Libraries, the day-long event showcased the talents of eleven featured authors and thirty-nine indie authors, illustrators, and performing artists from around the country. This year’s festival includes book signings and readings, arts and crafts, community partners and nonprofit organizations, as well as food.

Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé!

Thursday night was the night to celebrate Beaujolais Nouveau Day at 39 Rue De Jean in Savannah! The arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau symbolizes the official end of this year’s growing season. Harvest is complete and vintners—especially in France—are ready to celebrate the completion of the harvest. Beaujolais Nouveau is a red wine that is annually released on the third Thursday in November. Nouveau wine undergoes a very short fermentation process, and yields an extremely fresh and fruity wine. Attendees enjoyed heavy hors d’oeuvres, an oyster roast outside on the patio, and Henry Fessy Beaujolais Nouveau.

Taste of Savannah Food and Wine Festival 2017

This signature, festival event was a huge hit at its new location, the Georgia State Railroad Museum! Guests wandered the grounds savoring hundreds of wines, spirits, craft beers and more.

13 Secrets Jewelry One-Year Anniversary

Boutique owners Chad and Manu celebrated the one-year anniversary of 13 Secrets Thursday, Nov. 9. Event highlights included gourmet appetizers by local chefs, a wine tasting, door prizes and great networking opportunities! Here's to another great year!

Lip Syncing with Ghost Coast

One epic battle took place on Halloween night, and it all went down at Ghost Coast Distillery in Savannah. Visitors wore their funniest (and scariest!) costumes for the 2017 Halloween event. Many donned costumes that portrayed the singer they would be on stage during the lip sync battle.

Celebrity Chef Dinner

A night featuring dishes by some of the South's best, James Beard Awarded, Chef's of 2017. The night included multiple courses, each paired with the perfect wine to complement the flavors. Simply put - a dinner one will not soon forget!

Telfair Masquerade Ball 2017

Telfair's annual masquerade ball was once again one of the best events of the year! Party-goers donned masks, suits and ball gowns and danced the night away. Libations were flowing, appetizers were aplenty, and the DJ had everyone on the dance floor movin' and groovin'.

Pride Festival Savannah 2017

Downtown Savannah was colored rainbow Saturday Oct. 28 for the 2017 Pride Festival. People from all over the community came out to celebrate equality and love. The family-friendly event included live performances and entertainment.

Buy Local Savannah at Cohen's Retreat

The final Buy Local luncheon of the year kicked off on Thursday to a large crowd, plenty of delicious food, and great speakers. Many guests were in attendance and enjoyed listening to Jeff Kmiec, the general manager of the Desoto Hotel in Savannah, speak about the importance that the Desoto is placing on sourcing locally whenever possible, and how it helps both the business and the local community.

Good Times Jazz VIP Pre-Opening

The Good Times Jazz VIP Pre-Opening ceremony started off with a bang. Folks gathered at the Good Times Jazz Bar and Restaurant on Oct. 25 to sample food, enjoy libations, and network. The venue came about as a desire to bring Southern cuisine, fine wine and the best jazz to the heart of Savannah. Good Times Jazz Bar and Restaurant's grand opening is on Oct. 30 at their location at 107 W. Broughton.