Those parties were the spark to launch his first restaurant at the Custard Factory in Digbeth, Birmingham.
The award-winning chef and owner of Baked in Brick went on to launch a new bakery in Erdington and now he’s on the cusp of launching his first bakery in Sutton Coldfield, as he expands further.
The three-floor cafe will offer a variety of freshly baked goodsincluding breads, cakes and pastries, with the main focus being on the bakery and cafe.
The ground floor will be the main bakery with a seating area of tables and chairs. The second floor will offer a more relaxed setting with comfortable sofas for visitors, and the top floor will be an exclusive, private-hire space.
“I have a massive buzz about this,” said Lee, who lives in Tamworth. “I have had some really good messages from people, asking when we are opening, with some hoping to book birthday events here.
"I did boxes during lockdown, delivering to people in Sutton and a guy messaged me the other day to say he’d ordered food from me to give to his parents.
"He’d told them I was opening up a bakery in the town and they told him they were really looking forward to it because they’d enjoyed our food during the pandemic.
"It’s something I’m excited about because I’m from Wylde Green and went to Bishop Walsh. I worked at TGI’s at 18 as a waiter for a year so Sutton is in my heart and it’s nice to be opening up somewhere so familiar to me.”
Lee has made great strides in business. In 2016, he won ‘Best Street Food Trader’ at the British Street Food Awards, and followed this up the following year by taking the European title in Berlin. His passion began before that – “I built a woodfire in my garden and had a big summer house,” he said. “It was a cool little space and I had neighbours around and parties on bank holidays and that’s how it started.”
Following the success of his street food, Lee opened his first Baked in Brick restaurant in 2019 within the iconic Custard Factory, a short stroll from the city centre.
The business now includes the ‘at home’ range, along with the bakery, and the street food. He has since expanded with a bakery outlet in Erdington and work is well under way on his Sutton venue.
“When I was opening the restaurant in Digbeth, I looked at Sutton but I didn’t feel, for my first one, it was right,” he said. “But after I started the bakery a year ago, I was looking for a small shop to open as an outlet for the baking we do. I’d driven past the Ironmongers.
“My younger brother Adam brought a lawn mower there to get fixed and saw it was up for rent.”
“Behind it is Holland House Junior and Infant School and my brother suggested it would be a good site as mums could meet before and after school for a chat. I spoke to Chris at the Ironmongers and the rest is history.”
The plan is for the bakery to be open Monday to Sunday. It will have a drinks licence for Thursday-Saturday so it can open on the evenings.
“In the day, we’ll have bread, pastries, a real brunch menu with toasted sandwiches, avocado on toast, baked eggs with nice sourdough,” he said.
“On the nights, we’ll have nice beer from Purity, natural wines from Wine Freedom and nice cheese boards.
“We might do little pop-up nights like a paella night, burger night, pizza and fresh pasta. We want to keep things a bit interesting.”