Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Lee Wolen decided to pursue a career in the kitchen when he was in high school. During his early career, Wolen worked as Sous Chef at Moto and Butter in Chicago before spending time in Europe at Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons and the famed El Bulli.
After his time in Europe, Wolen returned to the States and spent three years as Sous Chef at Eleven Madison Park in New York. During his tenure, Eleven Madison Park achieved The New York Times' coveted four stars, earned multiple Michelin stars, and a Top Ten ranking in San Pellegrino's "World's 50 Best Restaurants."
In 2012, Wolen returned to his midwestern roots, joining The Lobby at The Peninsula Chicago as Chef de Cuisine. Under Wolen, The Lobby received a five-star rating from Time Out Chicago, a four-star review from Chicago Magazine, three stars from the Chicago Tribune, and a Michelin star.
In 2014, Wolen joined Boka Restaurant as Executive Chef/Partner, where he was named "2014 Chef of the Year" by Chicago Tribune and Eater Chicago, one of Plate Magazine's "30 Chefs to Watch," and was nominated as a finalist for a James Beard Award for “Best Chef: Great Lakes” in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. Boka was named semifinalist in the 2020 James Beard Award for "Outstanding Restaurant." Boka has maintained a Michelin star from 2011 to 2022.
In September of 2021, Wolen debuted Alla Vita, serving a menu of comfortable Italian cuisine in the West Loop. Just this year, he opened the first brick and mortar outpost of GG’s Chicken Shop in Southport Corridor. GG’s, affectionately named for Wolen’s mother, offers family-friendly variations of rotisserie chicken and fried chicken, salads and classic dinner sides.
When he’s not in the kitchen at Boka, Alla Vita or GG’s, you’ll find Lee exploring Chicago with his wife and two young kids, fishing with friends across the Midwest and playing (and watching) basketball.