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1118 N State Street
Chicago, Illinois 60610 USA
T: +1 312 586 2000
F: +1 312 586 2111

+1 888 712 2712

Meet Chef Lee Wolen

Chef Lee Wolen  

Chef Lee Wolen is no stranger to the celebrated Chicago dining scene. Best-known for overseeing the kitchen of Boka Restaurant Group’s flagship restaurant Boka, he was named “Chef of the Year” in 2014 by Chicago Tribune and was nominated for a James Beard Award for Best Chef: Great Lakes in 2016 and 2017. Under his reign in the kitchen, Boka has also maintained their Michelin Star status in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

We had the chance to sit down with Chef Lee Wolen to learn more about his cooking philosophy, what diners should look for when experiencing Somerset.

Q:What was the first dish you learned to cook and what are some of your favorite early kitchen memories?
A:The first dish I learned to cook was a ham and cheddar omelet. I used to watch Julia Child with my grandma on the weekends and since then; I knew I wanted to be a chef.

Q:What are your favorite ingredients to cook with and why?
A: It changes all the time. Five months ago if you asked me, it would have been beets. Two months ago, it was octopus. Right now, it’s lamb tongue. We’re corning, then grilling it on the menu at Boka. One of my favorite things to cook always will be pasta, from start to finish; it’s just so versatile. There will definitely be a few pasta dishes on the menu at Somerset.

Q: What inspires you to continue to create new dishes?
A: Eating out, seasonality and cookbooks. At my restaurant Boka, we have walls of cookbooks. It’s my favorite part of the kitchen. I do not drink, so occasionally guests bring cookbooks to the kitchen as gifts!

Q:What should diners expect when visiting Somerset?
A: Somerset will be located on the ground floor of Viceroy Chicago, which in my opinion is one of the best locations in the city. The food will not be a major departure from my type of cuisine at Boka, but will be slightly less complex. There will be a wood grill and a small rotisserie…I want to create delicious, flavor-forward and approachable dishes.

Right now we’re playing around with a whole roasted fish and proteins plated tableside (or by a waiter in-room for room service), homemade ricotta gnudi, and wood-grilled vegetables.