Meet the Chef: Isaias Lira of Lis Bar in Kingston NY
Next in our Meet the Chef series, we catch up with Chef Isaias Lira of Lis Bar located at 240 Foxhall Avenue in Kingston, NY. Pronounced “LEASE” (which is Polish for fox), Lis Bar exudes a cozy chic charm whether you’re in the dining room enjoying exquisite Polish tapas, biting into a juicy burger, or hanging out at the bar sipping well-crafted cocktails. Proprietors Jonathan and Patty Rich and Chef Lira have created a cherished local Upstate New York hot spot.
Inside+Out Upstate NY: Tell us about yourself. Where were you born and how did you wind up in the Hudson Valley?
Chef Isaias Lira: I was born and raised in Puebla, Mexico. I moved to NYC and worked my way up through the restaurant industry. After years of working in some of New York’s best restaurants, I was ready for a change of pace when the pandemic hit and left the city.
Where did you get the inspiration to become a chef and what was your journey?
I actually worked front-of-house for seven years before working in a kitchen. I worked at an Italian restaurant, Paula’s. The owner was the Chef and I’d spend hours watching her work. I fell in love with her food, Italian food as a whole. The ingredients were so simple, like a simple tomato sauce, yet the result was something special that everyone loves. It inspired me to work instead in the kitchen and I worked my way through top-rated and Michelin-starred restaurants.
What inspires your menu and how often do you change it?
I’m inspired by the local products at my fingertips here in the Hudson Valley, like local meats, cheese and vegetables. We change the menu at Lis Bar seasonally.
The restaurant industry has seen much change and disruption with Covid. How are you adapting and is there a silver lining to be had here?
It’s hard to be optimistic about COVID’s effect on the restaurant industry and I don’t want to sugar coat it – it’s very difficult. But I’m inspired by the staff and fellow restaurant workers who still continue to show up every day and have a positive attitude. Overall, though, small restaurants have been the ones to take the biggest hit.
How do you inspire your staff and what is your company culture?
I strive to always treat my team with respect and give everyone ownership over their own roles. That’s how you feel good about work. I want my staff to be genuinely excited about what we’re doing.
What do you love most about living + working in the Hudson Valley?
The rhythm of life is so different from NYC and it suits me. Every day doesn’t feel like a crazy rush.
What impact does your business have on your community?
We are a neighborhood restaurant with nice food that I carefully source from local and high-quality purveyors.
What local businesses do you rely on to be successful?
Our farmers, purveyors, everyone from our local linen service to the brewers whose beer we carry.
What is missing in the area that you wish we had?
More options for nightlife would be welcome. And more restaurants that are open when I get off work late at night!
What is your favorite thing to eat/cook when you’re home alone or with your family?
I rarely eat by myself. I love simple pasta with garlic and oil. My favorite thing to cook for my kids is breakfast, especially pancakes.
Name three things you always have in your fridge.
Hot sauce, good butter and IPA beer.
What would be your dream Hudson Valley Staycation?
Camping in the woods in the Catskills.
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Read all of Inside+Out’s MEET THE CHEF SERIES
Chef Jesse Frederick | Butterfield Restaurant at Hasbrouck House| Stone Ridge NY
Chef Corwin Kave | Deer Mountain Inn | Tannerville NY
Chef Alex Napolitano | Prospect at Scribners | Hunter NY
Chef Clare Hussain| Runa | New Paltz NY
Chef Christoper Weathered | Mill & Main | Kerhonkson NY
Chef Elizabeth Steckel and Dirk Schalle | The Gunk Haus | Highland NY
Chef Wyatt Jaster | The Pines | Mount Tremper NY
Chef Richard Erickson | Blue Mountain Bistro & Bistro To Go | Kingston NY
Chef Cheryl Paff and Chef Juan Tzitzimititila | Black-Eyed Suzie’s | Kingston NY
Chef Francesco Buitoni | GioBatta Alimentari | Tivoli NY
Chef Tony Moustakes | City Winery Hudson Valley | Montgomery NY
Chef Doris Choi | Silvia | Woodstock NY
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