About Chef Sue Zemanick
Chef Sue Zemanick began her foray into cooking at just 14 years old in her hometown of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. At an early age of 18, she began studies at the Culinary Institute of America in New Hyde Park, NY. She went on to graduate at the top of her class and even stayed to become a chef-instructor for the prestigious New York culinary school’s seafood program. Soon thereafter, she did her externship with Chef Rick Moonan at Oceana in New York.
In 2003, she moved to New Orleans and quickly landed a position with Tory McPhail of Commander’s Palace, and a year later with Susan Spicer of Bayona. After cooking in the Big Easy for just two years, she was invited to be Executive Chef at the iconic Gautreau’s – three weeks before Hurricane Katrina hit. The storm shut the restaurant down for a year and a half.
Upon her return to the re-opened Gautreau’s, her career took a meteoric rise in the culinary world.
Her most recent recognition came from the James Beard Foundation awarding her “Best Chef South.” Prior to winning this award, she was chosen as one of the top 5 finalists for the James Beard Award in the category“Rising Star” for three consecutive years – a national award recognizing chefs under the age of thirty who exhibit superior talent in the kitchen.
Sue competed twice on Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters,” Season’s 3 and 5, as well as serving as Guest Judge on “Top Chef New Orleans” 2013. She was also named “Top Ten Best New Chef” (Food & Wine Magazine 2008), and “Chef of the Year” (New Orleans Magazine, 2008).
The menu at Gautreau’s has an emphasis on local seafood and is described as Modern American, a mix of French and American, with an occasional dash of New Orleans.
Now read our exclusive interview with Chef Sue Zemanick.
H2FAL: How did you get your start in cooking?
SZ: I started cooking in a professional kitchen when I was 14 years old. My uncle owned a catering business and I come from a family of amazing home cooks.
H2FAL: Did you learn to cook at home, in addition to cooking school?
SZ: Yes, both my grandmothers were wonderful cooks who taught me our family recipes.
H2FAL: You have a passion and a high level of expertise in seafood. Being born and raised in PA, how did this come about?
SZ: My love for seafood came from my parents’ love for crab, lobster and clams. My true passion for seafood came about at the Culinary Institute of America. After I graduated I did a one-year fellowship in seafood.
H2FAL: What brought you to New Orleans?
SZ: My love of music and seafood.
H2FAL: New Orleans is one of the greatest culinary cities in the world. Why do you think this is?
SZ: New Orleans has such a unique take on cooking and seasoning. People that live here respect the culture and history of this melting pot. Tradition is an important part of our cuisine.
H2FAL: Describe life at Gautreau’s, post-Katrina:
SZ: After Katrina we were closed for a year and a half. During that time while we rebuilt, I cooked privately for many of our customers. Everyone one was so excited when we finally reopened and business has been booming ever since.
H2FAL: If you were on Iron Chef, what ingredient would you hope to be the themed ingredient for the cooking battle?
SZ: Blue Crabs – the meat is so sweet and delicious, very versatile
H2FAL: What’s your indulgence food?
SZ: Fried Chicken
H2FAL: Is there anything you won’t eat?
H2FAL: Would you ever consider being on Top Chef Masters again?
H2FAL: What’s an upcoming trend in cooking?
SZ: I think people are going to be focusing on pairing small batch produced spirits and sake with food. Also doing juice pairings as and alternative to wine or beer pairings.
Thank you so much to Chef Sue Zemenick for taking the time to talk to us. You and your amazing food are such an inspiration!
When in New Orleans, don’t miss an absolutely amzing NOLA dining experience:
Gautreau's 1728 Soniat St. New Orleans, LA
Reservations are strongly suggessted