Who’s Who: Chef Lee Grossman of Bento Box Sushi
Who’s Who of Wilmington Today: Meet Chef Lee Grossman, Owner of Bento Box Sushi in The Forum
Chef Lee is originally from Rhode Island and anyone who knows him knows that is a die-hard New England Patriots fan.
Wilmington Today: How did you end up in Wilmington?
Chef: We moved to Wilmington in 2006. The year before moving here, I was the Executive Chef in Palm Beach, Florida at a hotel resort called The Breakers. One of my customers had a home in Wilmington and let my family use it for our 4th of July vacation in 2005. It was during that visit that we fell in love with the Wilmington area. While here, my wife and I believed we could create something special here – a restaurant we could be proud of that provided a more well-rounded lifestyle for us. While I loved working at the hotel, it left me little time to spend with my family and I was missing precious time watching my kids grow up.
When we first opened, we were only open limited hours but have had a steady growth and following ever since. We close every holiday, Sundays, and take an extended vacation during Christmas and New Years so our employees can also be with their families. Our regulars know that’s when we take our family vacation as well.
Wilmington Today: What is your favorite part about living in the area?
Chef: I really love the weather. Mild winters and not incredibly hot summers. And even during the winter months, we’ll get some warm days. It’s like New England… but with milder weather and nicer people.
Wilmington Today: What are 3 words that your team would use to describe you?
Chef: Detailed. OCD. Proud. (of what we do)
What is your average workday like?
Chef: An average day involves going to a market to pick up some fresh ingredients for the day. Then checking in on where and when the next delivery of fresh fish is coming from. We are always sourcing the freshest fish such as King Crab from Alaska, salmon coming from Scotland, tuna from Spain and Himachi from Japan. I usually work a lunch and dinner shift with a break in the middle for a power nap. You’ll usually find me manning the sushi bar and visiting with customers. I usually leave the restaurant by 10:30 or 11:30 at night.While there I get the stations set, evaluate the fish we have and determine what each station needs to be prepared for the day and our customers.
Wilmington Today: What do you enjoy most about your job?
Chef: The process. Remember when I said my team thinks I’m OCD? I value when I can look around and know we’re ready to go. Do you know the French term, mise en place? It means ‘putting in place.’ At my work station, even my cucumbers have to face a certain way.
My other favorite thing is when someone comes in and sits at the sushi bar and asks for the Chef’s dinner. Whether I prepare something a la carte and they get experience the scope of what we can provide here. People who have been coming for years get to experience another level of service and flavor.
Wilmington Today: What is the most difficult part of your job?
Chef: Staffing. I want to have a team as passionate about detail as I am and providing a level of detail and service we can be proud of. Our staff feels pride when people leave here satisfied. One of the most rewarding is when people say “that was an amazing meal” and they are happy. That is why we do what we do.
Do you have any future goals for the company, and what will you do to achieve those goals?
Chef: We want to raise more money than last year for ALS research. Every year we create a roll and 100% of the proceeds go to ALS research. I have 2 chef friends who have both died from ALS and it’s a crazy disease that doesn’t get enough attention. 15 of our 54 rolls have been ALS rolls over the years. Last year we donated the most ever with over $10,000 and we’ve donated over $50,000 since we began this initiative.
Fun Facts about Chef Lee of The Bento Box.
- Favorite movie? I love movies. I’m a movie freak. Probably a James Bond movie. I love James Bond.
- Football sports team? Patriots all the way. I have an autographed super bowl football among other keepsakes.
- If you could have a superpower, what would it be and why? The ability to travel through time.
- Favorite music? I’m not really into any current music. I like rock n roll.
- Do you have any pet peeves? You don’t have enough paper! (laughs) My cucumbers facing the wrong way drives me nuts. Too many pet peeves, too many to name.
- Favorite quote or mantra? Be prepared.
What do you want our readers to know about Bento Box?
We try to do as much as we can with sustainable, organic, responsibly caught seafood while using as many local ingredients as we possibly can. I get a lot of our seafood from Surf City Crab – we always have local shrimp and soft shell crab year around. All of our pork comes from Cheshire farms in Goldsboro.
Bento Box Sushi
1121-L Military Cutoff Road
Wilmington, NC 28405