Food Services has hired a new executive chef with deep roots in the central New York area. Chef Eamon Lee brings to the University over three decades of experience in the food service industry. In the short term, Eamon will look to create a culinary training program for the food service department. He will also listen to feedback from students, staff and faculty as his team develops menus and concepts for the University’s food court, cafes, and food and beverage operations.
“Eamon has the deep experience, passion and energy that we are fortunate to have at Syracuse University,” said Jon Webster, executive director of hospitality. “He has worked in catering operations of all sizes. He has deep roots and a strong passion for everything related to Syracuse.
A native of central New York City, Eamon began his high school career at the age of 16 as a diver and cook at The Wellington House in Fayetteville. He has worked at several iconic CNY establishments including the Brewster Inn and The Lincklaen House in Cazenovia and in 1995 he was the first sous chef of the Arad Evans Inn.
After a year in Manhattan working with two James Beard Award-winning chefs, he returned to Syracuse and accepted his first executive chef position at 238 Bistro (now Bistro Elephant) in Armory Square. In 1999 he became the executive chef of the Century Club of Syracuse, where he remained for 10 years.
In 2008, he began his career in foodservice distribution as a culinary director and kitchen design consultant, advising independent restaurateurs and chefs throughout upstate New York. He remained there until the opening of the post of Executive Chef at the University.
When not working, Eamon enjoys the outdoors and traveling with his wife Amie, herself a Syracuse elder, and biking, canoeing, beekeeping, foraging, gardening, fly fishing or making quality furniture.
What do you like about working on a college campus?
This is the first time that I have worked in a university atmosphere. I grew up in the Syracuse University neighborhood, went to high school in Syracuse, and bled Orange my whole life, so I’m extremely excited for this opportunity.
Because Syracuse University Food Services is stand-alone, this gives us the unique opportunity to meet the needs of our students in the most meaningful way to them. When we see the same students on a daily basis, we can develop a relationship and provide a level of service and hospitality that is different from other environments.
What types of challenges do you envision?
Foodservice is a complex and large organization. Creating any kind of change is a huge undertaking, however due to the sheer scale of our resources I believe we will be able to create a level of culinary excellence unmatched in most universities.
Opportunities present themselves by speaking and listening to our students. I plan to be very present, in order to be able to meet the students to better understand their needs and expectations.
What are the current trends in the food industry that you are passionate about? Do you see a possibility of including some of them at Syracuse University?
The bowl concept is an example of something that is quickly served with intense and interesting flavors. I love that the bowls are like an empty canvas where you can take something delicious from anywhere in the world, break it down into its basic pieces, and rebuild it to be creative and playful, all in a bowl !
Eating should be fun. The bowl concept allows you to immerse yourself in a different culture and experience something inspiring and delicious.
What is your vision for food services? What can students expect to see in the near future?
I plan to be available and visible where food is served on campus. I will be looking to interact with our student audience. I hope to evolve Food Service’s relationship with our students, by asking better questions and raising more meaningful awareness.
I plan to spend as much time in the dining room as in the kitchen, to better understand the preferences of our students.
What is your personal cooking style?
My cooking style has evolved over the years as I have had the opportunity to work with world famous chefs. As I learned their styles, I finally decided on what matters most to me in my own style of cooking.
I am a seasonal cook. I focus on what is accessible every season of the year. In upstate New York, we have four seasons and twelve months of natural variety, which lends itself to unlimited exciting foods and flavors throughout the year. I like to keep food natural and simple using the best locally available ingredients.
What’s your favorite food to cook or bake in the oven?
I like to bake bread. I shared my sourdough starter with local cooks during the pandemic, when everyone wanted to bake sourdough bread. I also love all kinds of pastries and imagine fresh meals using ingredients found in my garden.
What is your favorite restaurant in Syracuse?
Saint Urban wine bar and restaurant on Dell Street. Saint Urban Chef / Owner Jared Stafford-Hill and I worked together in the 90s. When he decided to open the restaurant, I offered my carpentry skills and created the tables, the bar and other woodwork in the restaurant. It is an incredible feeling to see their extraordinary food served and enjoyed through my skill.
A Mano Kitchen and Bar on Warren Street is my other favorite. The Fiacchi family are simply wonderful, and their food is delicious and comforting. Love it there!