'Our first year we sold 5K jars;' Chilee Oil hopes to make the Windy City a chili crisp destination

ByAngela Chen & Jordan Arseneau Localish logo
Friday, June 7, 2024
Chilee Oil hopes to make the Windy City a chili crisp destination
James Lee is a physical therapist and his wife Sufei is a software engineer. But they're also owners of a popular local condiment: Chilee Oil.

PARK RIDGE, Ill. -- "Initially they're a little confused like what is this stuff and then we give them a taste of it and their eyes open and they're really excited," said James Lee, founder of Chilee Oil.

Chilee Oil was Lees passion project that turned into a popular local condiment.

"Our first year we sold 5,000 jars, very shocking, incredible," Lee said.

Chilee Oil is a chili oil made with an avocado oil base infused with chili peppers and other spices. It can be used to garnish dumplings, eggs and a variety of cuisine.

Influenced by both his Korean heritage as well as his wife Sufei's Chinese heritage, James started experimenting with chili oil recipes before developing his own.

"I introduced James to Chinese cuisine but also the ways to use chili oil," Sufei said.

Lee spends one day of his week making large batches of chili oil and personally delivers it throughout stores and restaurants in Chicago. His Chilee Oil can be found on pizza at Paulie Gee's, 88 Marketplace, and local farmers markets.

"My favorite part since starting the business is really meeting with passionate people," Sufei said.

"I think for now I'm just really happy with where Chilee Oil is. I was born and raised in Chicago, raised here my entire life, I really want Chicago to be the best place where chili oil is found," Lee said.

For more information about Chilee Oil, visit chileeoil.com