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Delusions of Grandeur- You're Su-Su Vain!
on February 16, 2006
Delusions of Grandeur-Self Proclaimed "Toronto's Local Hero"
I am an intermediate level amateur cook, and pretty aware of cutting edge chefs, cooks and well written cookbooks, and Susur Lee and his book's grandiose recipes may wow small town folks and some home cooks, however he is delightfully delusional in his self importance, proclaiming himself THE "Local Hero" of Toronto, when my long time Toronto friends have not even heard of him!
I highly suggest you first read his very complex, hours long recipes, before spending good money for just 50 or so difficult and few recipes.
Chicago's Chef Charlie Trotter has similar recipes in terms of ingredients unobtainable to less than high end restaurant chefs, and may also have 20-40+ ingredients per dish, requiring an army of assistants to pull it off, however he does not have an entire book devoted to a sycophant praising his own wonderfulness. His combinations also "taste well" together in reading the ingredients, and he has books with "doable" ingredients and they are quite cookable by home cooks.
Susur credits his departed wife Marilou with his success, but others who gave him a "leg up" don't rate even a photo in this paen to his brilliance, as Susur takes back stabbing jabs at better known chefs who helped his career.
Instead of, having say instructive photographs at different stages of a complex dish's creation, he has instead chosen such childish photo selections as photos of his wonderful doodles of his own name, his hand written recipes, and doodling of a seating chart...
Does "You're Su-su vain" come to mind?
Hold that song in mind, as you smile and flick through the first 113 pages of his ego inflating toady's drivel, without even seeing one real recipe.
Oh, the recipes are in the "second" bound book, tighly bound, like a dead Siamese twin to this "first" book. So yes, he has thus published "two" books...um, sure, Susu, we're counting with you. Clever ploy; publish "Susur's Cooking Triptych" next time, and get credit for 5 books, total! (Toronto is certainly still cleaning up from the ticker tape parades for this self proclaimed "Local Hero's" creations!)
Why pay $50 (now down to $30) for only fifty some pretentious recipes, each with 25-45+ ingredients that you are more likely to laugh at, than cook... even one bloated recipe? Borrow this from Susu's large stack of "returns", or from a library, first, before buying!
Forget about "The Emperor's New Clothes"...this is the "Emperor's Trendy Cook Book!"
I do like the professionally styled photos of his creations. You or I could cook them if we had 2 assistant cooks,the strange collection of fresh ingredients, and gratuitous foie gras and black truffles added to many recipes.
Susu's has a dreadful hodgepodge of instructions and techniques, having the reader hopping between both "books" to cobble together a dish, and there's no Table of Contents to organize this chaotic collection.
He knows cooking techniques. I'd happily dine at his restaurant. Teaching techniques by a book is another story. For beginning and intermediate cooks, the cooking techniques that he glides over are far, far better explained in many cookbooks that the professional chefs already consult.
Some well thumbed cookbook/testbooks include "On Cooking Techniques from Expert Chefs"-Labensky, "Essentials of Cooking"-James Peterson, Jacques Pepin's "Complete Techniques", "La Varenne Pratique"- Anne Willan"The Zuni Cafe"-Rodgers, "The New Making of a Cook"-Kamman, "Glorious French Cooking"-Peterson, "Modern Art of Chinese Cooking"-Trop, "The Key to Chinese Cooking"-Kuo, etc.
Big Propblem is...home cooks, without two helpers, will be very frustrated by the hard to find ingredients and the time consuming, convoluted recipes in this cookbook.
Try making Susur's "Pan-roasted scallops, with sunchoke puree, pancetta, periwinkles in truffle sauce and preserved lemon".
Hmmm, if someone mixing up 1000 snippets of culinary nouns in a hat, then let a trained gerbil randomly pick out, then line up the first 10 to 15 words that came out... the resulting recipe titles may even be more appealing to you and I than Susur's convoluted "con-Fusion" titles that easily awe rookie foodwriters and rookie cooks...
Make his "Elk striploin with yamaimo, arame, uni, with burnt butter soy sauce", (40+ ingredients) or try "Braised veal cheek, with parsnip puree, cocoa nibs, grapes stuffed with dry-cured olives, and parmesan (also with over 40 ingredients).
Maybe the "Tuna with wasabi and parsnip mousse on cucumber jelly with crispy squid ink noodle" would whet your whistle. I'd rather go to the grocery store and make "Spiced seaweed crusted red mullet with saffron mayonnaiase and zuchini flower fritters".
A memorable dish is "Roast squab and foie gras stuffed squab legs in port sauce, with lotus root and baby corn, blueberry preserve, and taro root fritters" (>30 ingredients).
Step aside, Charlie Trotter, you've been "out Trottered" by Susu and his caramelized nuts...
For the amusement value, the professionally styled photos of plates that would leave most folks hungry from the tiny portions, and the sad need for the dramatic Napoleonic pose and prose by the self proclaimed "Local Hero of Toronto"... I still give him 3 stars...it takes guts (braised with cocoa, blueberry and truffle oil), to be so sweet and childlike in his vanity!