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About the judges
One might suspect that internationally acclaimed Chef Susur Lee was born with a spoon in his mouth - but that would be a tasting spoon, not a silver one. From his inauspicious beginnings as a 15-year-old apprentice at Hong Kong's swell-egant hotels, to his current Atlas's stride atop the fickle universe of celebrity chef-dom, Susur Lee has never deviated from a consuming passion: to explore beyond the horizons of received culinary knowledge, and to create unique, sublime compositions for the palate that blend textures and flavours in sensuous harmony. Juxtaposing the complex food traditions of China with the classical techniques of French cuisine, Chef Lee improvises a daring and original aesthetic. From the moment he opened the doors in 1987 to his 12-table restaurant, Lotus, in a pre-gentrified Toronto quartier bordering the espresso bars of Little Italy, Susur Lee has seduced his audiences and tongue-tied food critics from The New York Times to Art Culinaire with menus of astonishing artistry. Courvoisier's Book of the Best proclaimed Lotus the finest restaurant in the country and Susur Lee a leading young chef among Toronto's "nouvelle vague". Zagat unabashedly pronounced him "a culinary genius."
Never content to rest on his laurel, Susur shuttered Lotus after a decade of sustained full bookings and glowing reviews, and decamped to Asia for a "re-energizing" period. During the following three years he served as head chef for the exclusive Club Chinoise in Singapore and consulted to the Tung Lok Group, tweaking the menus of 17 restaurants, launching new ones and overseeing 45 chefs. Returning to Toronto, Chef Lee drew up plans for a home kitchen in a new and expansive gastro-dome, Susur, which opened in 2000 in the hip downtown enclave of Toronto’s King Street West. The restaurant immediately earned accolades from such industry heavy-weights as Food & Wine magazine, which heralded Susur Lee as one of the “Ten Chefs of the Millenium” in the company of Ferran Adria of Bulli and Pierre Gagnaire, and Gourmet magazine, which proclaimed him “an improvisational artist.” Since its debut, Susur has consistently received the highest possible ranking from taste-maker Toronto Life, while visiting celebrities, sports stars and political personalities make repeat pilgrimages to its dining room.
Lately, the undisputed master of Asian-inspired fusion has commandeered the royal kitchens of the Princess of Thailand, boldly matched TV Iron Chef Bobby Flay platter for platter to a culinary draw, and dazzled Euro-gourmands at Hanger 7 in Salzburg. He has manned the grill as “guest chef” at Charlie Trotter’s, The Four Seasons Atlanta, Ken Oringer and Ming Tsai, and was a recent participant in the “Masters of Food and Wine” festival in Carmel, Calif.
In 2004, the chef opened Lee, a less formal kid sister to Susur, which Gourmet and Toronto Life praised for its inventive menu and consistently gratifying gastronomy. Located side by side, these two restaurants complement one another perfectly. In addition to his duties at both restaurants, Susur Lee makes numerous appearances on television’s Food Network and acts as a guest chef and lecturer the world over.
He contributes regularly to charity projects, raising funds for the James Beard Foundation in Kansas City and Santa Fe, for cancer research at Spinizolla in Boston, Mass., as well as for the Null Foundation, which provides scholarships for underprivileged students to attend cooking schools. In 2006, he helmed benefit dinners on behalf of humanitarian causes in Israel through the Jewish National Fund, and, closer to home, recruited fellow chefs to showcase their skills at Toronto’s Daniel Nestor Charity Event, which raised funds for Tennis Canada programs for aspiring young Olympians.
Susur Lee lives in Toronto with his wife, designer Brenda Bent, and their three sons.
Andrew Chase began cooking as a child with an exceptional mentor, Charles Banino, who was both the executive chef of the Ritz Carlton Hotels in Paris and Boston and a frequent visitor in his parents’ home. Today, Chase’s kitchen philosophy is the passionate – but exquisitely simple – credo of a true food and wine lover: “Find the best, seasonal ingredients, inspire your cooking with fresh ideas, enjoy the cooking process, and share the results with friends and family. And take two sips of good wine between every bite.”
In Homemakers and Canadian Living magazines, Chase strives to offer readers those fresh ideas through accessible but sophisticated internationally-inspired recipes. His goal for readers is healthy and well-rounded eating, but he also hopes to inspire them to try new ingredients, new techniques and new flavours.