2023 Chefs

Danny Lee

CHIKO | Mandu

Washington, DC

Saturday, Match 9th at the Grand Tasting & Auction

Musician, biologist and legal assistant are a few of the hats Danny Lee tried on before finding his perfect toque as co-owner of Mandu, a traditional Korean restaurant in Washington, DC.

Born in DC and raised in Northern Virginia, Lee exhibited an early aptitude for biology, conducting experiments studying the genetic effects of biological warfare exposure at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research while still in high school. He continued his research through his time at the University of Virginia, where he graduated with a BA in biology. While juggling school, Lee also moonlighted as the guitarist of his college band.

Upon his graduation, Lee switched tracks to work as a legal assistant in DC before finding his way back to the restaurant industry as the manager at Oceanaire Seafood Room in DC.

No stranger to the restaurant business, Lee’s mother, Yesoon Lee, Executive Chef at Mandu, owned a sandwich shop in Old Town Alexandria, VA in the 1980s and in the late ‘90s, a Charlie Chiang Kwai takeaway store at Reagan National Airport. It was at Charlie Chiang Kwai that Lee learned the basics of running a food establishment. He cemented his restaurant knowledge at Oceanaire, where he worked under Chef Rob Klink who trained him both on the managerial and culinary side of the food business.

In 2006, Lee and his mother decided to open their own restaurant, one that played to their strengths and represented their culinary traditions and culture. They opened Mandu’s first location near Dupont Circle in November 2006 and five years later, the second one in DC’s Chinatown.

At Mandu, Lee helps in a managerial capacity as well as in the kitchen, crafting seasonal specials and drinks for both restaurants.