Rising Star Chef Lee Wolen of Boka - Biography

Chicago, IL

May 2015

Cleveland, Ohio native Lee Wolen knew he’d be a chef by the time he was attending vocational culinary school as a teenager. Immersing himself in the forward-motion of modernist cuisine early in his career, Wolen worked as sous chef at Moto in Chicago, and then went on to another sous position at Butter. He also spent time overseas at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in England and Ferran Adrià’s El Bulli. The most influential kitchen for Wolen was Eleven Madison Park, where he was sous chef for three years, helping Daniel Humm earn four stars from The New York Times, three Michelin stars, and a top 10 ranking on San Pellerino’s “World’s 50 Best Restaurants” list.

Eventually leaving that veritable constellation of accolades behind him, Wolen joined The Lobby at The Peninsula Chicago in 2012 as chef de cuisine, earning the restaurant the first five-star rating from Time Out Chicago in eight years. Wolen’s early inklings of his future chefdom weren’t just coming true, they were exploding. His next undertaking came after a serendipitous meeting with Rob Katz and Kevin Boehm of Boka Restaurant Group. Now chef and partner at Boka, Wolen is working passionately to bring fine dining to a larger audience, making the polish of great cuisine accessible and even fun, all while maintaining Boka's Michelin star status and incorporating charitable initiatives like the Academy for Global Citizenship into his work. Wolen was named Chicago Tribune Dining Awards Chef of the Year in 2015 and earned a 2015 StarChefs Rising Star Chef Award.