Raise your hand if you would have liked grade school better if “education” meant eating your way through NYC in 12 hours. Yes, me too. Well, that’s the kind of education Executive Chef Craig Falta and his team undertook recently in order to prepare for the addition of Peking Duck on the menu at Lee Lee’s Hot Kitchen in Charleston, South Carolina.
“We wanted the exposure to the proper Peking Duck service, and I knew it wasn’t something that was easy to find regionally,” says owner Karalee Fallert. “We decided to get really focused and try to experience as many as we could, then figure out what felt good for us to bring back into our restaurant.”
Research is a little-discussed element of strong restaurants, and the best chefs often explore outside their own kitchens to get inspired, to stay relevant, and to see what works (and doesn’t) for others. But the lean staff situation at Lee Lee’s meant that time was of the essence. Therefore, they made a plan that included having a driver and calling ahead at each stop so they could hit the door and immediately start eating.
It was a delicious and stomach-expanding whirlwind that the team documented visually and recently posted in a Facebook album. After all that duck what did they decide was imperative to bring back to Lee Lee’s? The perfect pancake to accompany it. They currently make all their dumpling wrappers and pastries in house, and in the Big Apple they were disappointed with the little attention paid to the pancakes that were served with the duck.
“Many people served frozen afterthoughts, and the perfect pancake should be thin, made fresh, and slightly chewy,” Fallert says.
So their Peking Duck will be served with housemade pancakes. Upon return, Falta quickly got to work perfecting them. Look for Lee Lee’s Peking Duck service to start in January.