Susan Spicer’s career has taken her all over the world. The Louisiana-based chef started her career cooking under Chef Daniel Bonnot at the Louis XVI Restaurant. Over the next two decades, she would study throughout Europe but always returned to New Orleans. In 1990, she partnered with Regina Keever to open Bayona. Since then, she has won a James Beard award for Best Chef in 1993 and a Lafcadio Hearn award in 2009.
We asked Chef Spicer about her greatest culinary inspiration, what it takes to be a great chef and why the Bocuse d’Or is important to today’s culinary world.
Bocuse d’Or USA: Why are you a part of the Bocuse d’Or USA?
Susan Spicer: When I went to France and cooked for the first time, I remember being so impressed by the seriousness of the cooks and the mentality that it was their metier, a real career and not just a job. There was an atmosphere in the kitchen that I had not found in the American kitchen I worked in, even though the chef was French. I think the Bocuse d’Or signifies that American cooks and chefs have that same pride and seriousness about what they do and that we can compete on the World stage.
Bocuse d’Or USA: Why is the Bocuse d’Or competition important in the grander culinary world?
Susan Spicer: I think to continue to grow, once we become chefs and mentors, we need to push ourselves, to strive and step outside our comfort zone. This is an amazing way to do that and raise the bar for all cooks and chefs around the world.
Bocuse d’Or USA: What does “American Cuisine” mean to you?
Susan Spicer: Oh goodness, a kind of bold and fearless cuisine which incorporates so many influences, yet somehow seems original.
Then there are the regional cuisines – Northwest, Southwest, Low Country, etc. Fortunately, I come from a part of America with a really distinctive cuisine – Louisiana!
Bocuse d’Or USA: What makes a great chef?
Susan Spicer: Great chefs have to be driven, workaholic, a little crazy and love the process as much as the end product.
Bocuse d’Or USA: What inspired you to start cooking?
Susan Spicer: My girlfriend who started cooking professionally tempted me into joining her in the kitchen by offering me $7/hr which seemed like a fortune in 1979.
Bocuse d’Or USA: Who is your greatest culinary inspiration? Why?
Susan Spicer: So many – starting with my mom, who cooked very internationally, entertained a lot and taught me the value of mise en place (how to organize a dinner party and still spend time with the guests, dancing and playing charades). Also, Leslie Revson who had a wonderful little restaurant, Restaurant Leslie, in NYC. Lydia Shire, Andre Soltner, and many more….
Bocuse d’Or USA: When did you open your first restaurant?
Susan Spicer: 1990
Bocuse d’Or USA: How did you develop your personal cooking style?
Susan Spicer: Through work, travel, research, eating and cooking a lot.
Bocuse d’Or USA: How has your personal cooking style changed over the years?
Susan Spicer: Availability of ingredients has made it possible to cook much more internationally, which I love – using local, seasonal ingredients
in exotic ways.
Bocuse d’Or USA: What advice do you have for young chefs and restaurateurs who are just getting started?
Susan Spicer: Focus on technique. It will give you the foundation and the confidence to be creative later.
Thank you to Chef Spicer for taking the time to answer our questions. To learn more about her, check out bayona.com.