Don’t THINK Twice, It’s All Right

By Allen Susser

“As a nationally recognized culinary leader and humanitarian I have had a tremendous effect on how we all eat today.”

Julia Child use to tell me “You don’t have to cook fancy, you just need to start with fresh ingredients.” As a young chef heading my own kitchen, I had no idea how sage her comments where. After all it was Julia who encouraged me to cook true with gusto. I remember devouring crispy fried chicken in Louisville with her and licking our fingers after feasting on smoky barbequed brisket in Dallas, and side by side pulling stone crabs from the shallow blue waters of the Florida Keys. Perhaps our bond was that we both attended the Cordon Bleu in Paris. Julia’s approach to life through cooking has stuck with me throughout the years.

Early in my career, I had worked at top Michelin star restaurants in both Paris and New York to learn the classic approach and refinement of French cuisine. Luckily this shaped the path to opening my own restaurant, Chef Allen’s in Miami, at the dawn of the new rage of American regional cuisine. My new world cuisine was all about cooking local and sustainable with Caribbean and Latin influences. This trend setting approach brought me great recognition including Food & Wine Magazine’s list of top 10 new chefs of the year. One of my greatest honors was to have won the prestigious James Beard Award.

My contemporary view of cooking is down to earth and caring for the earth too. I have a passionate commitment to fresh ingredients because they make the most delicious food. I believe the principle of sustainability rests in the fact that although we must meet the needs of the present, we must also do so without compromising the needs of generations to come.

My latest endeavor is Chef Allen’s Consulting, a boutique sustainable restaurant and hospitality-consulting firm. I provide strategic initiative, culinary resources, and innovative direction for the industry. In other words I motivate chefs to be creative and I assist owners to be more profitable. I find my greatest satisfaction when I am able to collaborate with clients who believe that excellence in food quality and genuine hospitality really matters.

Local products continue to inspire me everyday. My favorite consulting project is pioneering the production of an organic chocolate on St Lucia in the Caribbean. I have established Emerald Estate Chocolate: a tree to bean to bar chocolate business. This intense, exotic tasting chocolate is hand crafted on the estate. The cacao pods are hand picked; the beans are slowly roasted and finely stone ground in small batches creating an authentic chocolate.

This year we are putting the band (the Mango Gang) back together for the South Beach Wine & Food Festival for a reunion dinner. Our Gang of Chefs includes Mark Militello, Douglas Rodriguez, Norman Van Aken, Robbin Haas, and (me) Allen Susser. We created a cuisine inspired by the local ingredients and cultural influences in Miami. This culinary extravaganza is not to be missed on February 24 at Zest -200 S. Biscayne Boulevard, Miami.