Hee-sook Lee, founder of Koreatown-based BCD Tofu House chain, dies at 61

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Hee-sook Lee is seen outside BCD Tofu House on Wilshire Boulevard in Koreatown in this undated file photo. (Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times)

Hee-sook Lee is seen outside BCD Tofu House on Wilshire Boulevard in Koreatown in this undated file photo. (Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times)

Hee-sook Lee had tenacity. She also had a secret recipe. Together that was enough for her to build a tofu empire.

Lee, who founded the popular BCD Tofu House restaurant chain and helped raise the global profile of Korean cuisine, died July 18 at age 61, according to the Korea Times.

She had been fighting ovarian cancer the past five years, and her illness had recently worsened, the newspaper reported. She is survived by her husband, Tae-ro Lee, and three sons, the Hankyoreh reported.

Lee opened the first BCD Tofu House on Vermont Avenue in Koreatown in 1996 with limited restaurant experience but plenty of confidence and a singular focus on a singular dish: soondubu jjigae, silken hunks of tofu in bubbling spicy broth. The restaurant’s name was short for Buk Chang Dong, a neighborhood in Seoul where her in-laws once ran a restaurant.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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