Aspen chef spices up competition on the Food Network

By Troy Hooper
Real AspenApril 13, 2011
Aspen's own Susie Jimenez could be the next Food Network star.
Susie Jimenez
Via The Food Network

The 31-year-old proprietor of Susie's Custom Catering is among 15 finalists in the seventh season of “The Next Food Network Star,” which debuts June 5 and is hosted by none other than Bobby Flay.

As a girl, Jimenez grew up picking cherries, pears and peaches in the fields of California with her parents who immigrated to the United States from Mexico. That humble beginning turned her on to food and, craving a better life, she enrolled in the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco to further her culinary craft.

“I decided I needed to go to school and do something other than pick peaches,” Jimenez says in a promotional video. “I never had summers. I always had to … go to the field with my family.”

Sadly, her father passed away while she was in the academy and it was his dying wish that she finish what she had started. Her father's words help fuel her appetite to succeed.

But if you've ever met Jimenez, you probably walked away thinking she could also be the next Comedy Central star. The woman is funny, as evidenced by her explanation of her distinctive childhood.

“As I grew up, all I had was Mexican food. It was like, 'I want lasagna. Can I have lasagna?' Nope, my mom doesn't know how to make lasagna,” she recalls in between flurries of infectious giggling.

Eventually, Jimenez learned how to make lasagna and dramatically broaden her culinary repertoire beyond the foundation that her two very talented grandmothers instilled in her when she was young. After school, she began working as an intern and a line cook at the French fine dining restaurant Jardiniere in San Francisco before moving to Aspen in 2002 and training under chefs Jason Tostrup and Charles Dale at the now defunct Renaissance.

She went on to manage Merlin's Gourmet Pizza as the executive chef before taking a break from the kitchen and working in the front office of the Aspen Daily News, where she left me and the entire staff laughing.

Her brief foray into the wild world of newspapers gave way to a position at The Cooking School of Aspen where she taught classes and managed the specialty store. “This became one of my biggest passions to teach people how much fun it was to cook, how to develop their own taste buds and control what they want to cook,” Jimenez wrote on her website “As a result, I started my catering company, Susie's Custom Catering, where I wanted to get people to explore my menus, my bold flavors made with soul and patience.”

Later, looking to make a name for herself beyond the Roaring Fork Valley, she strapped on a head cam and taped herself in action to make a casting video for “The Next Food Network Star.” It worked. The producers picked her.

Jimenez lives in Carbondale these days, working her tail off as she grows her catering business.

She is one of two Colorado-based chefs on “The Next Food Network Star.” The other is Howie Drummond who is a radio personality on Alice 105.9 in Denver. The two are among a growing line of Colorado chefs competing on TV that has included Hosea Rosenberg, the executive chef at Jax Fish House in Boulder who won “Top Chef” on Bravo in season five; Kelly Liken of Vail, a finalist on “Top Chef;” and Telluride denizen Tre Wilcox, also a “Top Chef” star.

Author's note: You can vote for Susie Jimenez on the Food Network here.

comments: 1 Comment on "Aspen chef spices up competition on the Food Network "

Boo – April 13, 2011, at 6:10 p.m.

I will be following her story ... She sounds great!

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