FACES BEHIND THE FOOD SCENE: Lee Lucier

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There are many celebrated chefs across the Lowcountry. One of the most acclaimed is Lee Lucier. The Hilton Head Island chef, consultant, television producer and food stylist is nationally known for his numerous appearances at prestigious food festivals and on TV shows such as “Good Morning America,” “Fox & Friends” and “Restaurant Impossible.” Locally, he’s best known for his work at the South Carolina Yacht Club and Local Pie, a trendy Neapolitan-style pizza joint.

leel1Question: So how many jobs do you have at the moment?

Answer: My only job is as general manager and CEO of the South Carolina Yacht Club. I do have ownership interest in both the Hilton Head Island and Bluffton Local Pies, and of course being a dad and husband to my family.

Q: Do you have any plans to slow down, or are you going to keep this pace for as long as you can?

A: I love this pace. It is one I have had all my life, especially coming from a culinary background. I thrive on being busy.

Q: Rumors are swirling about your involvement in another restaurant on the south end of the island. Can you share any details?

A: Sure. We are in the planning and opening stages of Fish, which will open hopefully in late February in Coligny Plaza. The menu concept is based on scratch-made ingredients, huge raw bar selections and quality fresh seafood. The restaurant property also will feature a full raw bar outside, indoor dining and bar, private event catering and a live music venue called the Fishbowl.

Q: Of all that you’ve accomplished in your culinary career, what are you the most proud of?

A: That’s a great question. There would be two things: One, that I have been able to stay true to the lessons I learned as a young culinarian and two, being able to travel throughout the world supporting our troops.

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: Too easy. Pizza

leel2Q: What music do you prefer to listen to while you cook?

A: Old-school alternative like Joy Division or reggae of any sort.

Q: What is the best advice you could give to an amateur chef?

A: Read everything you can get your hands on. Understand your ingredients in any dish — their flavor, texture, preferred cooking method and origins. The K.I.S.S. method (keep it simple, stupid) works very well for everyone.

Q: Locally scoured ingredients seem to be the hottest food trend at the moment. What trends do you see coming in the future?

A: I prefer not to watch or guess the trends; rather, I embrace what works for me. The local aspect for me is more an economic decision, not about being trendy. But if I had to guess one, I would say that minimally processed ingredients would be one trend that I hope to see.

Q: Was the concept for Local Pie taken from another restaurant? If not, where did it come from?

A: No idea is completely new, in my opinion. Local Pie was taken from my youth making pizza in New Jersey with a chef named Dino Tridente. His passion for the craft, simple execution and connection with his community and family have always been memories that I fondly recall. When we started planning Local Pie, we continually came back to the premise of the food speaking to our mission of creating great simple food that everyone from kids to traveled chefs could enjoy.

Q: What is the most popular pizza on your menu?

A: The Little Bear, which is named after my wife, Heather. She is going to kill me. It has our house-made Italian sausage and meatballs, finished with pepperoni, San Marzano sauce and mozzarella. What could be more right than that?

Q: The specialty pizzas have been very creative. Which was your favorite?

leel3A: My favorite specialty pie is actually pretty simple: The Gump. It is a version of an Italian pizza blanco, with Carolina shrimp, calamari, scallop sausage, herbs, mozzarella and olive oil. Sounds odd, but it is killer.

Q: What ingredient has surprised you the most as a pizza topping?

A: Mac and cheese. I don’t get it at all, but our guests love it. As a chef, it’s weird to me.

Q: It was recently announced that Local Pie 2 is opening in Bluffton. How excited are you about that?

A: We are stoked to have the opportunity to open another local business in the Lowvountry. Our focus is to provide spectacular approachable food, good jobs and be great neighbors to the community. Bluffton has welcomed us with open arms and that is so incredible.

Q: What is one thing about you that most people don’t know?

A: Videos of military families reuniting make me cry. But don’t tell anyone, please.