Lehigh Valley

Recipe for Success: Bolete

Recipe for Success: Bolete

Customers are loving what Lee Chizmar and Erin Shea are cooking up at Bolete.

The story of Bolete is one of those boy meets girl stories. Or, in this case, chef meets girl at Boston's Great Bay restaurant.

Lee was a local guy, a graduate of Salisbury High School, who earned his chef's hat at the Culinary Institute of America and honed his craft in San Francisco before taking the reins at Great Bay.

That's where Erin became the general manager. She was a Massachusetts girl who found her calling in the food biz after a more "arresting" career didn't pan out.

"I wanted to be a prison warden," said Shea.

They knew their life together would include a restaurant of their own some day, but where?

"My dad would call once a year and say, 'Is it time to move back home?'" recalled Chizmar.

In 2007, it was time to make tracks to the Lehigh Valley, a decision that took some getting used to for Erin.

"I said, 'Where do you want me to move?'" Shea remembered with a laugh.

They purchased the historic Inn of the Falcon outside Bethlehem. Next came a new name, new décor, and a constantly evolving menu that relies heavily on local farmers.

"With seasonality, and the way that they plant some of their produce and things, we actually change the menu a little bit every day," explained Chizmar.

There are some staples of course, like chilled oysters. You may even find a sentimental item or two, like the lobster roll that reminds Erin of her Boston roots. But it's Lee's cauliflower soup that got the attention of the Food Network. Bolete appeared on a segment for "Best Thing I Ever Ate,"  and the accolades don't stop there. The restaurant was featured in Conde Nast's "Hot Tables" issue, and in Gourmet magazine.  And then, of course, there are the rewards that don't appear in print.

"I think one of the greatest things in the world is to invite people into your home and to feed them," said Chizmar.

The "home" part isn't a stretch. Lee and Erin live above the restaurant with their young daughter, and consider their small staff and regular customers their family. As for Bolete's future, anything goes: an expansion, possibly, or maybe even a second location. All the better to spread around the success.

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