Executive Chef, Loquita Santa Barbara
Peter Seung Lee learned his way around a kitchen at an early age. Like many Korean families, much of his home life was centered on the pride and tradition that came with preparing food of his rich heritage. As he helped his mother in the kitchen and was given tasks to do, Peter learned the art of Korean cooking – dredging meats and vegetables in salt, pepper, egg and flour – a staple of the country’s culinary technique. He discovered his love for food.
Growing up in Silicon Valley with a father who was a successful software engineer influenced his decision to pursue a practical career. He enrolled in the School of Economics at UC Davis and after a few years grew restless, thinking about an alternative route for his future. Peter and his friends worked in restaurants all through high school; some of them attended the California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, California and found fulfillment in their careers. Peter was intrigued and enrolled in 2006. Two years later, he graduated with his associate degree from Le Cordon Bleu.
Peter’s first professional position was in 2010 at the Catalina Country Club on Catalina Island under the watchful eye of Chef Paul Hancock. Hancock saw Peter’s dedication and potential and when the senior chef moved on, he recommended Peter to be his replacement as Chef de Cuisine. Other jobs followed, including Sous Chef positions at El Dorado Kitchen in Sonoma and the acclaimed Gusto in Los Angeles. In the summer of 2015 he began his biggest adventure when he was selected among many hopeful candidates to work at the award-winning Jöel Robuchon in Las Vegas. Here Peter learned discipline and creativity, producing menus from local produce and specialty purveyors while working under the enormous pressures and scrutinization that comes from a Michelin-starred restaurant and a celebrity chef. He learned that one’s success as a chef is achieved with a relentless, rigorous and unyielding attention to detail; being certain that a plate never leaves the kitchen unless it meets its intention.
At Loquita, Peter’s cooking is a departure from his gastronomic heritage and professional background yet he is confident and intensely passionate about Spanish food. He is inspired to design a menu that honors Santa Barbara’s early beginnings and culture. Many of the techniques are similar to Korean style and he has patiently tested each dish, polishing and perfecting them. The demands of opening a new restaurant are a challenge Peter meets daily and he’s ready for the opportunity to train and work with his team. He’s eager to explore the phenomenal products from Santa Barbara Country and transform them with skill and artistry into memorable dishes for the public to enjoy in one of the best places in the world to live, dine and play.
Peter lives in Santa Barbara with his girlfriend Felicia Medina, who works by his side as Sous Chef at Loquita and their little dog Gizmo.