Food and cooking were an important part of Lee Hokianga’s childhood. She grew up in a small town on the York Peninsula two hours out of Adelaide. Her mother cooked country-style food while her Maori father introduced her to the local seafood - diving for abalone and having sea urchin roe sandwiches were not out of the ordinary. Lee would often visit her grandmother and they would cook Cornish pasties together. It was her grandmother who suggested that Lee would make a great chef.
Lee moved to Melbourne when she was 17 years old to get a taste of the restaurant industry and first worked at Finney’s Café and then the Sir Robert Peel Hotel. Lee returned to South Australia, to study at Tafe and was fortunate to be tutored by one of Australia’s most outstanding chefs, Cheong Liew. She worked at the Universal Wine Bar in Adelaide, under Chef Brian Smith - before moving to Sydney in 1996.
It was here, that she first worked with Janni Kyritsis at the Bennelong Restaurant. This marked the beginning of a very happy and successful working relationship, that continued while setting up the Olympic Hotel and then MG Garage.
Lee feels that Jannis has taught her so much; to go with her instincts and to develop her own style. Lee loves working at MG Garage; the adrenalin rush of the kitchen, the great people and the time and support she has to create dishes.
Lee balances her hectic life at work with her other great passion, riding her horse Twinky.