What I Learned from Mom
Notable New Orleans chefs share what their mothers taught them in the kitchen and beyond.
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Susan Spicer and Alice Wedekind
Susan Spicer is chef and owner of Bayona and Mondo restaurants, and is a James Beard Award-winner and part of the James Beard Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America. Alice Wedekind is her mother.
When you hear the award-winning and celebrated chef, Susan Spicer, describe herself as a late-starter, you need her to explain what she means: “We are a very close family and we laugh a lot together. We have all found our way but it took a little while. We have our mother to thank for finding our passions because she always encouraged us to be happy.”
Spicer is one of seven children, her mother, Alice Wedekind, now 92, has five girls and two boys.
Commenting, Wedekind says: “I never really worried about my children being successful, I knew that they had good natures and that they would all find their place.”
It is no surprise Spicer found her place in food. Her mother’s childhood included living in various spots around the world including Copenhagen, Colombia, Venezuela, Indonesia, Denmark and Holland. Wedekind also loves to cook and learned many styles of cooking on her travels. Spicer is grateful now of all these influences: “My mother is a wonderful cook and introduced us to different cuisines from around the world. One of our favorites is her Satay sauce and her pork tenderloin with soy sauce.
“She’d also always bake Danish Kliner cookies and Kringle cake, and she still influences what I’m cooking in the kitchen today.”
Wedekind loves to go to her daughter’s restaurants. She particularly likes eating in the courtyard at Bayona, enjoying some of her favorite dishes: garlic soup, sweetbreads, steak tartare and fried oysters.
Despite Spicer’s fame and success, the whole family seems to share a down-to-earth nature and strong familial bonds.
“For my mother’s 90th,” Spicer says, “we just had a potluck dinner of our favorite things, and no one’s bothered that I cook for a living.”
Similarities. “Food and service. For many years, mother delivered Meals on Wheels and there’s no doubt we share a passion for food, hard work and our communities,” Spicer says. “We both love to travel. I do it more for work, but we share a curiosity about the world.”
Differences. “Now, my mother plays bridge and swims but growing up she always had dinner parties and lots of friends over,” Spicer says. “She made our clothes and is a true matriarch of our family. At the moment, I don’t have as much time for socializing, and I don’t have as many hobbies, but I’d like to!”