Sugar, sesame, soy and sherry wine — mild ingredients for a mild chef.
For David Lee, they were the basics of his crowd-pleasing menu at General Lee's, a kind of Chinatown Brown Derby frequented in its heyday by Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland.
Lee's personal style was as mild as he claimed Chinese cooking was supposed to be. "No group has had it easy," the lifelong restaurateur would say, when asked of the prejudice Chinese Americans faced in his childhood.
Where others saw conflict, Lee saw prospects, as when the U.S. normalized relations with China. And when his family restaurant finally fell out of fashion, Lee was characteristically practical....