Financial Woes

Susur Lee: New Yorkers Just ‘Don’t Understand’

Photo: Melissa Hom

The normally humble Susur Lee joins Alain Ducasse in blaming New Yorkers for his failings here. He admits to the Toronto Sun that things haven’t gone so well at Shang: “If I say everything is great, I’m lying to you. In New York, people are still driven by money and they don’t want to show off their money in expensive restaurants right now. They feel the pressure.” But Lee thinks it’s more than just the fact that he opened to mixed reviews weeks after the Lehman Brothers crash.

Lee is also the first to admit that New Yorkers were perhaps not ready for his avant-garde Chinese food.

“You know what, looking back … no, I don’t think they were ready,” he says.
While we tend to think of New Yorkers as very adventurous when it comes to food, they are more traditional than we think.

“New York is always difficult,” says Lee. “Your idea has to be suitable for New York. No matter how creative you are, if they don’t understand, they won’t come. Tradition is really important here.”

“People won’t go for chicken feet no matter how many truffles you stuff in there,” says Lee. “It’s a question of culture. On Asian cuisine they are not that advanced.”

So we’re not “adventurous,” eh? Having traveled to Flushing for the pig’s blood and intestine soup at Spicy & Tasty just a few days ago, we have to disagree! In fact, we’ll happily join Chef Lee at the table when he’s soon forced to eat crow.

T.O. icon tackles New York [Toronto Sun]

Susur Lee: New Yorkers Just ‘Don’t Understand’