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On a cobblestone side street next to The Durham Hotel, you'll find Mike Lee's pair of Bon Appétit-celebrated restaurants.

Posted By Discover Durham Staff on Feb 22, 2017

We caught up with four Durham chefs who represent the diversity of the city’s food scene. Learn more about Mike Lee, the chef behind Durham restaurants M Sushi and M Kokko.

Who are your influences? I love when I visit Japan. There are so many great restaurants that concentrate on a few [ingredients and execute them] very well. You can walk into any random restaurants and you will very likely have a wonderful experience. That is the reason I started M Sushi and M Kokko, where we are concentrating on one key protein group, seafood for M Sushi and chicken for M Kokko. It not only allows us to rotate through our ingredients very quickly but also gives us the opportunity and the pressure to make good dishes.

Locally, chefs like Matt Kelly and Scott Howell are running amazing restaurants that concentrate on individual concepts. Yamazushi also gives me great inspiration. They concentrate on traditional Kaiseki cuisine that is executed to perfection, with wonderful traditional flavors and transitions. It’s a true culinary gem that many probably do not know about.

If someone could only order one item off of your menu… One piece of nigiri sushi – any fish. I’m really proud of the quality of the rice, vinegar, and seafood that we use.

Why Durham? I really appreciate the guests that listen and appreciate the subtle differences in the quality of the ingredients. It keeps us on our toes and helps us strive for better each day.

It’s a very well-connected community, too. All the chefs and restaurateurs are very friendly and always willing to help each other. I still remember the gift basket the wonderful people at Dashi brought us on our opening week, welcoming us to the neighborhood.

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