Susan Spicer started her cooking career under the teachings of Chef Daniel Bonnot at the Louis XVI Restaurant in 1970. After spending four months in Paris at the Hotel Sofitel with Chef Roland Durand, she traveled back to New Orleans and opened a 60-seat bistro named "Savior Faire" in the St. Charles Hotel.
In 1990, she formed a partnership with Regina Keever and opened Bayona in a 200-year-old cottage in the French Quarter. This restaurant soon became famous and has been featured in many national and international publications. In December of 2012, Bayona was inducted into the Culinary Hall of Fame.
From 1997 through 1999, Spicer also owned Spice, Inc., which is a take-out food, bakery, and a cooking class. This became "Wild Flour Breads", which is co-owned with Sandy Whann.
In October 2000, Spicer and three other partners opened a casual bistro-style restaurant called Herbsaint.
Spicer has appeared on several local and national television shows including Top Chef, a reality TV competition show on Bravo. She also devotes her time and talents to charities such as Share Our Strength's annual "Taste of the Nation" and the hunger-relief fundraiser "Taste of the NFL.” On June 2010 she opened Mondo in the Lakeview neighborhood of New Orleans. The Lakeview neighborhood is near and dear to Spicer's heart, as it is where she has lived for 20 years.
In May 1993 Spicer received the James Beard Award, and was also chosen for the Mondavi Culinary Excellence Award in 1995. Bayona received the Ivy Award and was also put into the Nations Restaurant News Fine Dining Hall of Fame in 1998. Bayona also was featured as one of the Top 5 restaurants in New Orleans and received "Five Beans," which is the highest rating from the New Orleans Times-Picayune. In 2010, Spicer was inducted into the James Beard Foundation's Who's Who of Food & Beverage in America.
Spicer wrote a cookbook, entitled Crescent City Cooking: Unforgettable Recipes from Susan Spicer's New Orleans, and was recognized by the International Association of Culinary Professionals with a nomination for Best American Cookbook. It was also awarded Best New Cookbook by New Orleans Magazine.
Christen Press: Hello. I’m Christen and we are excited to have you here as part of the #SheBelieves campaign. With the National Team this summer we’ve been using the “She Believes” hashtag campaign as a way to inspire younger girls to work for and achieve their goals, in soccer and everything else.
Susan Spicer: In life, too.
CP: In life, exactly. No matter what career choice, just trying to change the rhetoric around on what women can and can’t do.
SS: Yeah, I watched a couple of the videos, a couple of the interviews. They’ve been pretty inspiring.
CP: Yeah, we’re really excited to have you! I was wondering how you got into your business and what it’s been like as a woman as a head chef?
SS: Well, I started cooking socially and I’ve always been a good eater because I have a mom who’s a great cook. But I started cooking with a girlfriend socially and she started professionally and then she drew me into it. Then she got married and stopped cooking professionally and I kept going. So, I’ve been at it almost 37 years.
CP: So a friend pulled you into it, so another woman inspired you. So cool!
SS: Another woman, yeah. And she was one of the first women who worked at this French restaurant and she said, “This is great! We got to do this!” Then she started a little catering business and I started to help with that and she got a chef position at another restaurant and hired me to be her assistant.
CP: What is your favorite thing to cook? I bet you get asked that a lot.
SS: Ah, well, being down here from the Gulf, I’d have to say seafood. We have such wonderful fish and shellfish. There’s such a great variety. Crawfish, I love boiled crawfish. I love to eat it, but we have crab, we have shrimp, we have oysters and great fish.
CP: I actually had an oyster po’boy.
SS: Did you like it?
CP: I did. It’s not exactly pre-game food, but it was delicious. Do you cook with Creole cuisine at all?
SS: I do. I do a little bit of everything. I grew up - I’m a Navy brat, so my father was a Naval Officer - I was born in Key West, Florida, then we lived in Rhode Island and then we lived in the Netherlands. Then we moved here to New Orleans, all by the time I was seven years old. My mother is Danish. She grew up in South America, so when we were living in Holland, she learned a lot of Indonesian food. So, every night she would cook something different, whether it was a Danish roast pork and red cabbage or it be an Indonesian curry the next night and then sometimes she’d make fried chicken. So we never knew what we were getting, but we always knew it was going to be good.
CP: That’s so cool, a little something different. So do you think some of your love and passion for food came from your mom?
SS: Oh absolutely!
CP: I’m like that with soccer a little bit. My family loves sports, so it kind of got passed down to me that way.
CP: Could you talk a little about what you do to inspire girls to pursue their dreams?
SS: Well I think mentoring is a huge part of what I do in the kitchen of training and teaching. We’ve always had a good mix of men and women in my kitchen. Boy and girls, different ages and different levels. Some are culinary students. Some are “change of career” people. Some are people that just come in off the streets with no experience. But I always say, “If you got a good attitude and a little aptitude, I can teach you how to cook.” So collaboration and mentoring is very important in our kitchen. It’s what’s helped me be successful and, in turn, I hope I am helping a lot of girls and guys be successful.
CP: I’m sure you are. And you enjoy that teaching?
SS: Yeah, I do.
CP: That’s special.