Opening In Situ, came from a place of wanting to partner on a project that I already found interesting and that was happening in the neighborhood where I live and work. A neighborhood that was becoming more and more frequented.
— Chef Corey Lee
Chef Corey Lee is a trailblazer in the San Francisco food scene with his two Michelin-starred restaurants, Benu and In Situ. It’s no coincidence that they’re located around the corner from one another, either. Chef Lee has been living and working in the heart of Yerba Buena Gardens for almost ten years. Below, he shares his perspective on the neighborhood he loves to call “home.”
When I first opened Benu, it was more about the building than the location. It’s one of the few historical buildings left in the city after the 1906 earthquake. The upstairs used to be a printing press where some great American artists, including Richard Diebenkorn, Wayne Thiebaud, and Chuck Close, had come to etch prints. I loved that juxtaposition – to have this old building that’s surrounded by a neighborhood full of new development. It created a really unique space.
I wasn’t interested in opening another restaurant after that, but when the SFMOMA asked me to collaborate on a food project, I couldn’t say no. In a city that’s so entrepreneurial and tech-focused, we need to remind ourselves of the importance of preserving and promoting culture and arts.
That’s what institutions like the SFMOMA are for and what inspired me to open In Situ. It came from a place of wanting to partner on a project that I already found interesting and that was happening in the neighborhood where I live and work. A neighborhood that was becoming more and more frequented.
For a long time, this area didn’t feel finished. It wasn’t a location that people thought about to come and hang out. Now there’s a growing sense of community. After being here, YBG is like ground zero for a lot of the innovation that’s happening in San Francisco. It feels like this great hub that’s providing incredible experiences, not only for the visitors, but also for us locals.