Stuzzi Leeds: Meet the executive chef of the popular restaurant bringing a slice of Italy's backstreets to Leeds

Stuzzi's Italian small plates have been a hit since the Leeds restaurant opened early in 2019.

By Abbey Maclure
Saturday, 1st January 2022, 4:45 pm

Its four founders, fondly nicknamed the 'Stuzzi boys', are on a mission to bring a slice of the hidden back streets of Italy to the UK.

Executive chef Brett Lee fell in love with Italian food on a trip to Italy while working under Gip Dammone in Leeds restaurant Salvo's.

Born in Headingley, Brett didn't discover his love for food until he was kicked out of school as a teenager and got a job as a kitchen porter at Horsforth's Inside Out.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Brett Lee is the executive chef and co-owner of Italian restaurant Stuzzi, which opened its Leeds restaurant in 2019 (right)

"I enjoyed the environment and the buzz of the place," The 34-year-old told Yorkshire Evening Post.

"I didn’t have many options, so one of the chefs suggested I tried catering college.

"My first day of catering college was an absolute nightmare, it was hard and I'd never cooked before.

"But I persevered and set myself targets and goals. If I was going to do it, I was going to do it properly.”

Brett didn't discover his love for food until he was kicked out of school as a teenager and got a job as a kitchen porter

Read More

Read More
Oliver Awards 2022: Entries now open as the Yorkshire Evening Post celebrates Le...

Brett worked at No 3 York Place before taking up a job at the prestigious Devonshire Arms in North Yorkshire.

He added: “I started cooking at 17 and set myself a goal of being in a Michelin-star restaurant by 21.

"I was part of the team at the Devonshire Arms that won the Michelin star, so that was fantastic.”

Stuzzi offers little plates of Italian cuisine, which are traditionally eaten by hand, in a relaxed and homely atmosphere

While working at Salvo's, Gip's "infectious" love for Italian food rubbed off on Brett - and he joined the Stuzzi team on the day it opened its Harrogate restaurant in 2014.

Stuzzi offers little plates of Italian cuisine, which are traditionally eaten by hand, in a relaxed and homely atmosphere.

“It means that everybody can dig into a little piece of everything," Brett said.

“For Italians, that’s how they eat - it’s very family-led and a shared experience and we wanted to recreate that within the restaurant.

“It’s not just about the food or about the wine, you can have any experience you want.

"You can go ‘big dog’ and have everything on the menu and a really expensive bottle of wine, or you can have as little as possible. The options are endless.”

Just over a year after Stuzzi launched its Leeds restaurant in Merrion Street, the four founders faced their biggest challenge yet.

After being forced to furlough staff during lockdown, the directors launched a delivery service which they would often cook and deliver themselves.

"It went absolutely crazy," Brett added.

“It’s been very challenging for everybody, but the message we wanted to get across to our staff was that we’d go down fighting.

"We showed everybody that we’re not bothered about mucking in, we led from the front and tried to smash takeaway out the park. And we got a fantastic response.”

The team launched Italian food hampers, dry pasta and other treats during lockdown which they continue to sell to customers, offering a slice of Stuzzi at home.

Brett added: "There’s always something new to discover - from a chef’s point of view and a business point of view.

"It’s the excitement of what we can create and achieve that’s what gets me out of bed in a morning."

Support the YEP and become a subscriber today. Enjoy unlimited access to local news and the latest on Leeds United, With a digital subscription, you see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Click here to subscribe.