The Times sat down with restaurateur and Iron Chef America contestant Susur Lee for their Frequent Flier column yesterday, and as it turns out, Lee, a Canadian, has had more than his fare share of problems bringing his culinary goods across the border. A few years back, Lee was en route to New York to film Iron Chef, with a bag stuffed with ingredients he wanted to use at Kitchen Stadium. Although everything was totally on the up and up, airport security was suspicious:
"I had a bag of special corn starch. Corn starch is white and powdery. Of course, it was assumed that it was something illegal. It didn’t help matters when the corn starch went flying everywhere when the bag was opened."
Lee explains that eventually the airport officials ran the stuff through a substance test, and realized that yes, it was in fact corn starch. But the fun didn't stop there:
"I had some rosemary and other herbs. Those ingredients, too, looked illegal, even though they smelled like rosemary and other herbs. These ingredients were thoroughly inspected, too. The consensus: just plain herbs. But again, most of them were no longer usable."So, Susur lost his corn starch, lost his herbs, whatever, not that big of a deal. Until, that is, they messed with his special sauce:
"Then, immigration got to my pride and joy. It’s a very special stock that has a long history. The emperors of China had their foods prepared with a stock like this...It was a meat-based stock, made of pork and beef. The officials were concerned about mad cow disease. So it, too, was not going to be allowed to come with me."Once he finally got to New York, even without his special ingredients, Susur went on to tie with Bobby Flay in their Iron Chef battle.
·A Chef’s Ingredients, and His Hopes, Run Afoul of a Border Inspection [NYT]