Tastemakers: Are the Lee Brothers Too Chill for TV?

The Lee Bros
Cooper Neil/Ovation
The Lee Bros

These guys do know they’re on camera, right? South Carolina natives Ted and Matt Lee—contributing editors at Travel + Leisure—bring their unassuming, what-the-heck style to Southern Uncovered With the Lee Bros., a new Ovation series dedicated to busting misconceptions about down-home cooking.

You two have a very easy-peasy approach to TV. Are you sure you want to be stars?

Matt: We’re not Guy Fieri, screaming at you through the television set. We don’t have that kind of personality. We’re nerds. Before we got into travel writing, we were working behind the scenes as assistants at VH1 and MTV. We fell into food TV through the back door.

What stereotypes about Southern grub drive you the most crazy?

Ted: That it’s all fried chicken and barbecue and macaroni and cheese.
Matt: And that everything is overcooked.
Ted: And that everything Southern is the same, that it’s all flattened and homogenized. This season, we take our show to Charleston, Atlanta, Dallas, New Orleans, Asheville, and Louisville, each as different from the other as the various regions of Europe.
Matt: There’s also this perception that the South is stuck in time. Not true. It’s changing so fast we could bring our show back to these same cities in two years and have an entirely new culinary experience.

You’ve won six James Beard Awards for your cookbooks. What’s the secret to competing with the zillions of other cookbooks that come out each year?

Ted: Our publisher wanted us to be like Bobby Flay, Martha Stewart, and Ina Garten and do a book every two years just to have product out there, so we had to separate from that relationship. These books are our lives. We have to be invested in them full tilt.
Matt: And it doesn’t matter to us if they don’t catch fire in the first few months. We write our books with the intention that they will become classics on your shelf—something you will still be going to 40 or 50 years from now. We’re in no hurry. [Laughs] This is a very slow game!

Southern Uncovered with the Lee Bros., Sundays, 8/7c, Ovation

RECIPE: Butter Beans With Lime and Mint

This summery side dish comes from the boys’ most recent cookbook, The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen.

Serves 8
Kosher salt
6 cups fresh shelled butter beans
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Juice of 2 large limes
1 cup loosely packed mint leaves, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon grated lime zest, for garnish

In a medium saucepan, bring 6 cups of water and1 tablespoon of salt to a boil over high heat. Add beans and cook until tender, 9 to 12 minutes, depending on size of beans. Drain in colander. Put butter in a large serving bowl and pour the warm beans on top. Toss beans and butter until all the butter is melted. Add lime juice and toss again. Fold in mint, season with salt and pepper, and scatter lime zest over the top. Serve immediately.