I want to work with a Chef to create a totally new cuisine. My goal is to take Asian Fusion on a more progressive path. -Chef Jae Lee
Chef Jae Lee, Executive Chef of Miga (Champaign IL) is a passionate and meticulous Chef. His life experiences shine through his food. Originally from Korea, Chef Jae made his way to the United States in his twenties to Boston, Massachusetts.
It was here Jae was bit hard by the culinary bug and he eventually enrolled in the culinary arts program at Newbury College. At Newbury, he began to develop an understanding of the culinary basics, but also his creative reservoir within.
Jae would eventually find his artful passion while working at the Four Seasons Hotel in Boston. The polish, excellence, and composure needed for fine dining tapped into Jae’s soul. Up to this point, he had been restlessly searching for a life direction to understand the art of production and the business side of large operations. Thriving in the large city environment, he gravitated toward the fine dining aspects of the culinary realm and began intensely exploring his craft. The primal instincts of creation began to consume Jae. From these instincts and hard work, Jae developed an acute and singular vision.
Almost overnight, Chef Jae pulled up stakes and flew home to Korea to attend the Star Chef Course at the Korean Food Institute. His Korean upbringing took a firm grip on his vision of his own future. He knew he had to study under the best mentors he could find to better develop his skills. Then one day, while burning up the line working as a Demi Chef at the W Hotel in Seoul, a perfect opportunity
walked through the door. Chef Jae caught the eye of an investor that admired and appreciated Jae’s passion and fusion cuisine. The investor’s vision and Chef Jae’s vision were the same. The stars aligned and Miga was born.
Miga is Chef Jae’s latest masterpiece. Working from the ground up, Jae invented an Asian fusion inspired concept that has proven to be more than your ordinary midwestern restaurant. Using his experience and his deep-rooted work ethic, Miga rose to the ranks of “top 5 restaurants” in all of Illinois by Opentable. Considering that Chicago is in this category, one can understand the magnitude of this accomplishment. Driven, doesn’t fully describe Chef Jae’s mentality, but it does lend to his burning desire to push the limits. Being a small, college town – Champaign, Illinois was not quite ready for Chef Jae’s creativity. However, the diversity that the University of Illinois brings to the community significantly affects restaurant culture throughout the city. The younger, traveled, liberal demographic gave Jae a foothold, with the help of the worldly University professors and staff. But his pure talent and passion, took it to the next level.
There is no question that his culture is all about focus, hard work and extreme dedication. Those ideals are what helped create a one of a kind concept. Day in and day out, Chef Jae is pushing the limits with his food. It is wild, yet refined. Delicate, yet bold. In your face, yet
comforting. Ultimately, Chef Jae wants to invent a new cuisine. Audacious? Yes. Possible? Certainly. Jae is a visionary, with a specific skill set and artful eye. His concept, implemented in Miga, represents where he comes from and who he is, but also what he wants to become. The preface of Chef Jae’s story has been written. What is to come next? We can only wait and see what his next chapter holds.