Chef Robert W. Lee
January 1, 1911 to November 24, 1999
Giving Honor to God and to the thousands of African-American chefs and cooks who came before me, establishing the very foundation for our great cuisine. Without their mastery and contribution, we would have had no basis to forge upon. Chef Robert W. Lee, is one of those worthy heirs to a great tradition of southern cooking we should honor. Chef Lee started his culinary journey in Atlanta, Georgia at the age of seven years old around 1918. An education was not a priority at the time, surviving was the task at hand to be able to work was to be able to eat. His father was deceased and he needed to help at home. While in the streets doing the best he could, he observed a man who went in and out of the Biltmore Hotel every day who appeared to be doing quite well. Young Robert discovered the man was Eugene Bruauier the French chef at the hotel and soon became his personal boy. Chef Lee worked and trained under Chef Bruauier for thirteen years. He then worked at the King and Prince Beach Club on Saint Simons Island, Georgia. Robert moved to Charleston, South Carolina He relocated to Atlanta in 1939 where he worked at the Hotel Henry Grady until he was lured to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania around 1939 by the chef he had worked for in Charleston. Chef Lee worked as a cook at the Harrisburger Hotel until 1942. He then joined the U.S. Army where he became a mess sergeant and instructor, returning to the Harrisburger Hotel as a cook in 1946, after being discharged from the army. Over the next year, the Hotel experienced a rapid turnover of executive chefs. Finally, Chef Lee was recommended for the position of executive chef which he excepted over the next twenty-seven years. Chef Lee managed the kitchens at the Harrisburger Hotel, with an entire African-American staff. He trained many young men and women for careers in the culinary field. Lecturing and demonstrating at Pennsylvania State University School of Hotel Management. Chef Lee built a clientele in several restaurants within the hotel and maintained a dedicated following throughout those years. In 1966 the owner of the Harrisburger Hotel died. Chef Lee excepted the position as executive chef at the Blue Ridge Country Club, where he worked until the fall of 1969. He took over as executive chef at the Sheraton Hotel Harrisburg for the Archris Hotel Corporation of Boston. His outstanding achievements in the Culinary Arts were recognized by naming him Chef of the Year from 1970 thru 1979. Chef Lee retired in 1979 and lived with his devoted wife Geneva in Harrisburg, PA until his death November 24, 1999.