Chef Ed Lee serves Maker’s Mark bourbon on the plate, not just beside it, interview

Chef Ed Lee, photo provided by Maker's Mark
Chef Ed Lee, photo provided by Maker's Mark /

Chef Ed Lee never disappoints with a spirited, flavorful conversation about food and beverages. The James Beard Award Winning author, chef, restaurateur, and food television personality always embraces the intersection of food and culture. As seen with his restaurants, Southern staples sit side by side with Asian flavors. With his Maker’s Mark dinner menu, Chef Lee shows how the iconic bourbon flavors the food on the plate, while also filling the glass next to it.

Many people enjoy Maker’s Mark. Whether sipped simply over a single ice cube or shaken into a balanced cocktail, the subtle fruit, cinnamon spiciness, and even a slight vanilla sweetness allows the American spirit to work with a myriad of flavors. From a bright citrus to a robust herb, there are no shortage of options.

During a recent conversation with Chef Ed Lee, he shared why Maker’s Mark Bourbon is his secret ingredient in many of his recipes. As Chef Lee said, “my cooking generally tends to fall in between Southern and Asian. I love pulling influences from my own life experiences and history. One of the things that I have as an interesting thread is bourbon, specifically not just a spirit but also as an ingredient that can add a lot of flavor.”

Chef Ed Lee for Maker's Mark bourbon
Chef Ed Lee, photo provided by Maker’s Mark /

As Chef Lee went onto explain, the Maker’s Mark’s complexity and depth of flavor from the craftsmanship, aging, and methods makes it an easy shortcut in cooking, or in his words, “a magical ingredient.”

From a Sunday supper to a holiday feast, using bourbon as the common thread makes for a magical meal that people will remember. Chef Lee shared a three-course offering including: Goat Cheese Dip with Bourbon-Soaked Cherries, Grilled Chicken Thighs in a Maple, Bourbon, Miso Marinade, and Peppermint, Chocolate, Sugar Cone Ice Cream with Bourbon Cranberries. These dishes are paired with Rosemary Maple Sour. The meal celebrates Chef Lee’s concept of blending his influences.

During our conversation, Chef Lee brought up an interesting point when referencing his Grilled Chicken Thighs, specifically the combination of bourbon and miso. Chef mentioned that it can be difficult to find a wine which can stand up to the flavor boldness of miso. With bourbon, it can be that counterpoint. He believes that it simplifies the concept and makes the food conversation more engaging. These recipe ideas invite that discussion. People might not have had chicken thighs with miso and bourbon, but they have something similar to the dessert.

Looking at his menu suggestions, the food options play off the familiar and the innovative. Many people covet that bourbon soaked cherry in their Manhattan cocktail. Yes, a bourbon cranberry can bring a spicy, tartness to the classic vanilla ice cream. It is a way for people to open a chapter to their story and share it on the table.

As Chef Lee explained, those stories, personal connections “conveys something unique.” People love stories and that idea makes the food taste even better. There is something to that moment which is relatable and personal.

Maker's Mark Rosemary Maple Sour
Maker’s Mark Rosemary Maple Sour, photo provided by Maker’s Mark /

In addition, it supports the idea that Maker’s Mark and its founders wove into their own story. They created a bourbon that is meant to be enjoyed with friends, invite them to sit together, and raise a glass to making memories. It might not be written in script under the trademark, but it is distilled in every bottle.

Whether people make Chef Lee’s chicken thigh recipe, scoop some ice cream for dessert, or just sip on that Rosemary Bourbon Sour, there are plenty of reasons to peel off that red wax seal and pour three fingers of that classic bourbon. From the holiday season to a spirited Saturday, no glass or table should be left empty.

Chef Ed Lee is the chef and owner of 610 Magnolia in Louisville, Kentucky. In addition, he is the culinary director of Succotash in National Harbor, Maryland, and Penn Quarter, Washington, DC. James Beard Award winning author of Smoke & Pickles and Buttermilk Graffiti and will be publishing a new cookbook in 2024. In addition, he can be seen on various food television programs, including Top Chef.

Maker’s Mark bourbon is available at various retailers. In addition to its flagship spirit, it offers other special releases.

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