Susur Lee

Canada’s 100 Best - - News - BY JA­COB RICHLER

A dozen years ago, alone in Ky­oto, Ja­pan, I vis­ited the fa­bled Kikunoi for an elab­o­rate tast­ing at the bar, much of which—to my de­light—was pre­pared by the kaiseki mas­ter him­self, Yoshi­hiro Mu­rata (he now holds seven

Miche­lin stars). Three hours in, he un­ex­pect­edly broke the si­lence, re­vealed that he spoke a lit­tle English, and asked halt­ingly what I was do­ing there. I said I was vis­it­ing the World Expo at Nagoya with a chef from Canada named Susur Lee.

Mu­rata made no re­sponse, just slipped away through the door to the pantry. A few min­utes later he was back, hold­ing a large pho­to­graph: it showed Mu­rata and a pony-tailed Cana­dian with their arms around each other's shoul­ders. “Susur!” he said, beam­ing.

Younger peo­ple of the In­sta­gram gen­er­a­tion know chef Lee most read­ily for his as­so­ci­a­tion with Drake, at Fring's, and for his fre­quent TV ap­pear­ances—from chal­lenger on Iron Chef Amer­ica and Top Chef Masters to his cur­rent gig on Chopped Canada. But long be­fore all that his fame spread from across the States to Sin­ga­pore, and even to an iso­lated, unilin­gual cor­ner of Ja­pan. Just by virtue of the tran­scen­dent orig­i­nal­ity and qual­ity of what he cooked.

At Lo­tus and then at Susur, he cre­ated some­thing that was all his own: a new sort of fu­sion that drew on both his Hong Kong and his French train­ing, added some­thing of his im­pres­sive ap­petite for travel, and com­bined it all into some­thing co­her­ent, un­clut­tered and ex­cit­ing. Lamb chops with that Thai-in­spired, bright and crack­ling chilim­int chut­ney. Soy-stained foie gras. Veal ten­der­loin with creamy uni and slip­pery yet crisp ba­tonettes of ya­maimo. That yin and yang of red and yel­low gaz­pa­cho. And don't for­get those back­wards-tast­ing menus, where the main pro­tein and red wine were de­liv­ered up front, and from there you were let down gen­tly, course by lighter course, in a sort of trompe l'es­tomac that had you eat­ing hap­pily 10 or 12 cour­ses into the night.

What he did back then con­trib­uted im­mea­sur­ably to Canada's culi­nary rep­u­ta­tion. What he does now is an in­cred­i­ble cap on that ca­reer. And for that and ev­ery­thing in between, Amer­i­can Ex­press salutes Susur Lee with its Life­time Achieve­ment Award for 2017.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.