Chef Susur Lee - Biography


Susur Lee is the kind of chef who both feeds on inspiration, exploring cuisines from countries around the world and even challenging the bounds of traditional Chinese cooking. In the end, Lee is a chef who can integrate the great variety of his experience into a culinary style and inventiveness that balances tradition, imagination, and nuance. Lee was born in Hong Kong in 1958, the youngest of four children. Knowing he wanted to cook from a young age, Lee served his culinary apprenticeship Hong Kong’s renowned Peninsula Hotel before emigrating to Canada in 1978, where he worked his way up the ranks to executive chef status at a number of restaurants in Toronto. Lee opened his first Toronto restaurant, Lotus, to great success. In 2000 he opened Susur, which was lauded by Gourmet, Restaurant (UK), and Food & Wine (which called Lee one of the “Ten Chefs of the Millenium”), and was on various international Top 50 lists, including Restaurant World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards. And while it closed in 2008 (as much a victim of its own ambitions as anything else), Lee, the chef’s eponymous tapas-style restaurant in Toronto, is still going strong. Madeline, the restaurant Lee named after his mother, opened four months after Susur closed and was hailed by critics and the ever-swelling ranks of Lee’s dining public alike.

With so much success in Canada, Lee was finally persuaded to dip his extremely talented hands into the New York market, specifically at Shang at the chic Thompson Hotel. Lee’s success in the Big Apple encouraged him to expand even further into North American territory, taking DC next with Zentan at Thompson’s Donovan House Hotel—a hot restaurant that got even hotter when Michelle Obama made a pivotal visit. Piling one success upon another, Lee’s next project unveiled early in 2010: Chinois by Susur Lee at Singapore’s posh Hotel Michael at Resorts World Sentosa. But even with an expanding international restaurant empire, and a name that’s taken on the high-gloss proportions of a the world’s most renowned chefs, Lee found time to write the definitive autobiography, Susur: A Culinary Life. And for a chef who could easily rest on his laurels, Lee is constantly giving his time to charitable causes, from James Beard Foundation to juvenile diabetes events his own Toronto-based charity work with the Susur Lee-Daniel Nestor Charity Event in Toronto, which raised $800,000 in 2010 for Canadian aspiring Olympians and the North York Hospital.