Jeremy Lee, Chef and Proprietor

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A Year in the Life

Jeremy Lee, Chef and Proprietor

In the world of restaurants, chef Jeremy Lee is held in regard like few others.

Heading up the kitchen at the beloved Soho restaurant and members club Quo Vadis, that didn’t stop the restaurant and Lee himself from experiencing “an emotional waterfall of relentless small peaks and big troughs” as the year’s lockdowns, closures, and pivots took effect.

Like many in the industry, Lee threw himself into his work and supported others where he could. He turned his East London house into a field kitchen for the charity DeliverAid to provide food for NHS workers, which also provided shape, purpose, and camaraderie.

With the year affording a downtime of sorts to read, illustrate, and snatch precious moments with loved ones between lockdowns, much of Lee’s time was spent, of course, in his home kitchen: “Blessedly the kitchen has been a boon companion whilst being marooned at home, and I’ve been able to cook the days away”.

A May 17th reopening date is scheduled (and the club accepting new members), and the worst is hopefully in the collective rear view; the only thing he misses more than his work are his guests. “We’ve missed you and couldn’t do it without you”, he smiles. For those who have missed the joy of restaurants, it’s easy to reciprocate the sentiment.

His story of the last 12 months follows.

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April 2020. Fergus, Daniel and me at my home, which has been turned into a field kitchen cooking for DeliverAid, sending nutritious meals to NHS key workers and those in need.

August 2020. Dinner at a time we could do so, with Anna Tobias (whose Café Deco is a treat) at our friend Ed Behren’s house. Note the recently acquired tapestry adorning his Bethnal Green home!

August 2020. Skye [Gyngell] and Stroma [Sinclair] in Spring’s pink pop-up van at Somerset House, serving delicious cheese sandwiches and ice cream. Oh, how we all pivoted!

August 2020. Going down to see my dear friend Mary Lou Sturridge at her home last year, one rare weekend when it was allowed and when she wasn’t working at her brilliant Seaside Boarding House. I cannot wait to return there when travel is once again possible.

September 2020. Our darling friend Terence, who died last year. He was a dear friend, mentor and inspiration. I pulled out all my books of his I have, and was amused to find myself written about in some way or other in many of them. He is greatly missed.

October 2020. We managed two of our QV and Friends guest chef dinners last year, one with Angela Hartnett and one with Thomasina Miers. Both were socially distanced, masked and also great fun and incredible food. We can’t wait to bring the series back later this year with more talented guest chefs.

November 2020. The very lovely people at Luncheon magazine asked me to contribute eight original drawings to their recent issue. They had seen my lockdown drawings I’d been making to amuse myself over the lockdowns and posting on my Instagram, and it went from there. I donated one recently to The French House auction, too.

December 2020. One of the few private dinners we were able to do last year. A wedding! Complete with meringue tumbles with curds of lemon, orange and berries, cream, custard and ice cream and tonnes of almonds. That’s our GM, Luca, in the dashing red jumper.

December 2020. Our gorgeous Quo Vadis florist, Billy, delivered me a great armload of Covent Garden Market flowers ahead of Christmas. They lasted almost the whole of January before collapsing magnificently.

December 2020. ‘The Imbibing Goose’ – a print I bought from my dear friend Christopher Brown, who is an excellent lino cutting artist. I figured it was a good opportunity to support the arts and I saw the poetry in not being able to serve a goose pie at QV Christmas Carols this year – so instead allowing one to have a drink, displayed in my home.

January 2021. Many supplies were bought from favourite stores over the lockdowns to keep myself well supplied with the good stuff. These brilliant little anchovies were from 4Cose on Viner Street.

March 2021. My AstraZeneca vaccine. I was immunised at the brilliant Bocking Street vaccination centre in Hackney. It took all of two minutes and I was most taken by the electric blue gloves of my vaccinator. They wouldn’t give me a pair sadly. Vaccination two is coming soon.

March 2021. Lightly cured cod with monks beard, sea kale, potatoes, olives, and wildly early wild garlic. Testing recipes for our May 2021 menu and Quo Vadis’ glorious rise from the ashes. See you on the 17th May.

Read More Stories From Resy's Special Project: A Year in the Life of London's Restaurant Workers

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