Meet the Chef: Felicia Willett

Felicia Willett

Felicia Willett

Title: Chef/owner, Felicia Suzanne's Restaurant

Hometown: Jonesboro, Ark.

Who or what was your first cooking influence? My grandmother was a great cook. The first thing I learned was frying chicken and making biscuits. ... Everything was what she grew in the garden. ...They were butchering fresh chickens. They were making fresh cheese.

Felicia Willett

Felicia Willett

What made you decide to become a chef and when was that? I wanted to go to culinary school at 18. ... I thought I was gonna have to go to law school. My family is attorneys. The very idea of going to law school made me nauseous. I'm not a good reader. I'm a terrible writer. Horrible speller.

What was your first food-related job? I would make cheesecakes for my mom's friends probably starting at about 12 or 13 for extra money.

Where did you go to culinary school? Johnson and Wales (University) in Charleston, S. C.

What was something important that a fellow chef taught you? I guess it was time management/organization (from) Emeril (Lagasse).

What is the Felicia Willett style? I do simple cuisine with local products.

Describe a dish you created. I lived in South Carolina in Charleston, and I lived in New Orleans. Both have a version of shrimp and grits. I took a Creole sauce, which is tomatoes and peppers and celery and stuff. ... If you see shrimp Creole it's chunky. It's a more rustic kind of dish served over rice. I took the Creole sauce and pureed it and then took the concept of sautéing shrimp and sausage in this Creole sauce over grits. . ... It's a version of Lowcountry shrimp and grits with New Orleans Creole.

What do you cook or bake at home, if anything? I do Italian. Red gravies. Pastas. I love the whole idea of getting up early Sunday morning, putting on a red sauce, watching it all day.

What's your least favorite ingredient? Curry. ... I think I must have been traumatized as a young student having a bad curry. ... I don't cook curries. I don't do anything with curries.

Felicia Suzanne's Restaurant is at 80 Monroe; 523-0877.

Contact Michael Donahue at 529-2797 or e-mail donahue@commercialappeal.com.

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