In 2007 we set out to open our first restaurant after relocating from Boston to the Lehigh Valley where Lee grew up. Eight years—and two little girls—later, we are enjoying the culmination of years of training, a lifetime of dreaming and the joy of finding a partner with the same passion. Bolete celebrated its eighth anniversary in fall of 2015 on the tail end of Chef Lee's first James Beard Award nomination. We’re beyond humbled that our little dream has become a dining destination for farm-to-table freshness and innovative cuisine.
CHEF LEE CHIZMAR — originally from Allentown, Penn., Lee has always had a strong relationship with food, ever since his introduction to oysters (still his favorite food…and our 4-year-old’s as well!) at the ripe age of three. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park in 2000, he traveled to San Francisco to work at Bradley Ogden's Lark Creek Inn in Marin County. There he developed his love for, appreciation of, and dedication to serving locally grown, seasonal ingredients. He visited farmers' markets where the tomatoes were enjoyed like apples and the back door of the kitchen was a rotating door of local farmers peddling their perfect produce. He spent four years there being mentored by Chef Jeremy Sewall and was thrilled to get the call when Sewall was putting together his "dream team" to travel back East and open Great Bay in Boston, for Chef Michael Schlow and celebrated restaurant guru Christopher Myers. Great Bay received great accolades upon opening, including "Best New Restaurant in the Country" by John Mariani of Esquire magazine. After quickly being promoted from sous chef to chef de cuisine in the first nine months, the young Chizmar was then asked to take the reins when Sewall left to open his own restaurant.
It was in Boston that Chizmar was introduced to New England's bounty of the sea—access to some of the world’s freshest oysters, lobsters and fish—but more importantly, Erin, his future wife.
ERIN SHEA — It should have been a clear indication that Shea would end up in the restaurant world when, at the age of six, she opened “Maggie's Café” in the family’s basement in the small, seaside town of Marion, Mass. She tried to make her own wine (nearly sending her little sister to the emergency room). Many a summer afternoon was spent digging for Quahogs or getting more meat out of a lobster than once thought humanly possible, which all helped solidify her relationship with fresh local ingredients at an early age. Still, it did not become her chosen path until after graduating from Georgetown University. Shea decided to abandon her dream of being a prison warden (no, really) and to take more seriously her love of food. A summer on Martha's Vineyard working at Harvey Weinstein's Balance Restaurant put her in touch with some great restaurant owners, Liz and Nick Zappia of the Blue Room in Cambridge—whom she now considers close friends. It was there that she learned the art of "unconditional hospitality" working with customers. Then with that experience under her belt she approached friend Christopher Myers about getting a whack at being the head honcho at his newly opened restaurant in Boston, Great Bay. Queue Chizmar’s entrance into her life.
A shared desire to own their own restaurant led them back to Lee’s hometown (following a smart suggestion from Lee's dad to check out an old stagecoach inn as their spot). And the rest, as they say, is history…or in this case, just the beginning.