Food, Wine & Spirits in St. Louis

Thursday, January 31, 2013 / 4:23 PM

Chef Chris Lee Moves Downriver, To River City Casino

Chef Chris Lee Moves Downriver, To River City Casino

Until recently, Chef Chris Lee was the executive toque behind In Good Company, the culinary cartel that owns four very different area eateries. His creative chops gave us the decadent blue cheese/phyllo/sherry "Cabrales Cigars" at Sanctuaria Wild Tapas, the supa-fresh salsa buffet at Diablitos Cantina, the beignets at Cafe Ventana, and the chicken-in-a-biscuit at Hendricks BBQ. Lee competes in culinary events about town and has taught classes at the Kitchen Conservatory (below right).  

But his creativity came with a price, said Lee -- a price paid by so many in the demanding restaurant/hospitality industry. "I hadn't really spent much time at home in a while," said Lee. "That lifestyle [with the In Good Company owners] was go-go-go all the time, and I'm looking forward to more of a nine-to-five job, and getting my head together and re-focusing. I'm just taking everything one day at a time now."

Lee has announced what his next position will be, and whether it permits the relative leisure of a 40-hour workweek remains to be seen. Pinnacle Entertanment, the large company that owns Lumière Place and River City Casino locally, has hired Lee as "Banquet Chef" for River City. The title is deceptive -- Lee will call the shots at a swanky new events center being built at the property.

"It's an $82 million expansion that has already started," explained Pinnacle spokesgal Candice Coleman. "We finished the parking garage prior to Thanksgiving, we'll finish the events center in June, and the new hotel in September."

"I'll be in charge of banquets at the new Center, assisting Executive Chef John Johnson in putting those together," said Lee.

We'll look for Lee's creative touches this summer, when the facility opens.

"We could not be more thrilled that someone of his caliber is joining the ranks," added Coleman.

Johnson and Lee could prove a formidable combination at local competitive chefs events. Last weekend, Johnson took home all the beads at the raucus Crystal Cajun Cook-Off for the second year in a row, and last summer, Lee brought home the gold at the Taste of St. Louis' main event, the Chef Battle Royale.  

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