First-year students and transfer students in their first year who have already achieved academic success at the University were honored at the Success Scholars reception Feb. 23. The Success Scholars program recognizes new students who earned a GPA of 3.75…
Meet Eamon Lee: 7 Questions to Get to Know Syracuse University’s New Executive Chef
Food Services has hired a new executive chef with deep roots in the Central New York region. Chef Eamon Lee brings over three decades of experience in the food services industry to the University. In the near term, Eamon will look to create a culinary training program for the Food Services department. He will also be listening to student, staff and faculty feedback as his team crafts menus and concepts for the University’s dining centers, cafes, and catering and concessions operations.
“Eamon has a depth of experience, passion and energy we are lucky to have at Syracuse University,” says Jon Webster, executive director of hospitality. “He has worked in food service operations of all sizes. He has deep roots in and a strong passion for all things Syracuse.”
A Central New York native, Eamon started his career in high school at age 16 as a dishwasher 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 opening sous chef at 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 at the Century Club of Syracuse, where he remained for 10 years.
In 2008, he took his career to food service distribution as a culinary director and kitchen design consultant, advising independent restaurant owners and chefs throughout upstate New York. He remained there until the executive chef position at the University opened.
When not working, Eamon enjoys the outdoors and traveling with his wife Amie, herself a Syracuse alumna, and biking, canoeing, bee keeping, foraging, gardening, fly-fishing, or building fine furniture.
01What do you like about working on a college campus?
This is my first time working in a university atmosphere. I grew up in the Syracuse University neighborhood, went to high school in Syracuse, and I’ve bled Orange my whole life, so I am extremely excited about this opportunity.
Because Syracuse University Food Services is self-operated, it gives us the unique opportunity to meet the needs of our students in a way that is most meaningful to them. When we see the same students daily, we can develop a relationship and provide a level of service and hospitality unlike other environments.
02What types of challenges do you foresee?
Food Services is a complex and large organization. Creating any kind of change is a massive undertaking, however, because of the scale of our resources, I feel that we will be able to create a level of culinary excellence unmatched in most universities.
Opportunities present themselves by talking and listening to our students. I plan to be very present, so I can meet with students to better understand their needs and expectations.
03What current food industry trends are exciting to you? Do you see a possibility of including some of these at Syracuse University?
The bowl concept is an example of something that is quickly served with intense and interesting flavors. I like that bowls are like an empty canvas where you can take something delicious from anywhere in the world, break it down to its basic elements, and reconstruct it so it is creative and playful, all in a bowl!
Eating should be fun. The bowl concept allows you to immerse yourself in a different culture and discover something inspiring and delicious.
04What is your vision for Food Services? What can students look forward to seeing in the near future?
I plan to be available and visible where food is served on campus. I will be looking to engage with our student audience. I hope to evolve Food Service’s relationship with our students, asking better questions, and doing more meaningful outreach.
I plan to spend just as much time in the dining room as in the kitchen, to better understand our students’ preferences.
05What is your personal cooking style?
My cooking style evolved throughout the years as I had the opportunity to work with world-renowned chefs. By learning their styles, I eventually settled on what matters most to me in my own cooking style.
I’m a seasonal cook. I focus on what is accessible each 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.
06What’s your favorite dish to cook or bake?
I love 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 pastry and coming up with fresh meals using the ingredients found in my home garden.
07What is your favorite restaurant in Syracuse?
Saint Urban Wine Bar & Restaurant on Dell Street. The chef/owner of Saint Urban, Jared Stafford-Hill, and I used to work together in the ‘90’s. When he decided to open the restaurant, I offered my woodworking skills and created the tables, bar, and other woodwork in the restaurant. It’s an incredible feeling to see their extraordinary food served and enjoyed on my craftsmanship.
A Mano Kitchen and Bar on Warren Street is my other favorite. The Fiacchi family is simply wonderful, and their food is delicious and comforting. I love it there!