Felicia Willett

Felicia Suzanne’s

9Step in to Felicia Suzanne’s Restaurant in downtown Memphis, TN, and you’ll immediately feel like you’ve walked into the modern South. After working for eight years under Chef Emerill Lagasse, Felicia learned to put her take on the classic entrees and side dishes from across the region. She uses food sourced locally whenever possible, and her talent for creating authentic Southern foods with a twist, paired with her friendly and charming personality, has made her one of the region’s most respected chefs. She’s also the co-author of “New York Times” bestselling cookbooks, “Everyday’s a Party” and “Emeril’s TV Dinners.”

Felicia’s culinary career kicked off in her hometown of Jonesboro, Arkansas. Felicia knew she wanted to be a chef at a young age, and she began to make her dream come true by taking the classic curbside lemonade stand to a new level by making cheesecakes for family, friends and neighbors when she was only 12 years old. The top quality of her cheesecakes began to earn a reputation around the community, and she began experimenting with new recipes and styles of cooking.

Selling cheesecakes was only the start of a career that includes being the chef of her own restaurant, which as of 2015 is in its thirteenth year. Her tenacity is what launched her career and continues to drive her success. Though she had numerous job offers after completing culinary training at Johnson and Wales University in Charleston, S.C., Felicia wanted to learn from the leader in her field. She began making daily phone calls to Emeril Lagasse in hopes of securing an internship. After 30 days of phone calls, she finally secured a position. Felicia’s commitment soon earned her a position as Lagasse’s assistant, co-author of his cookbooks and producer of his “Good Morning America” segments.

While building her experience with Lagasse, Felicia resolved to open her own restaurant. Felicia Suzanne’s Restaurant was opened in the beautiful Lowenstein Building in downtown Memphis in 2002. Felicia considers the Southern dishes she creates to be puritan representations of the region’s culture and signature foods. She draws inspiration from the places from her past: the cheesecakes she made and sold as a child growing up in Jonesboro, Charleston’s fresh seafood, the Gulf Coast at New Orleans, the towns along the drive down Interstate 55, Alabama’s back roads and the barbeque style of Memphis.

Since the opening, she has taken being a local chef to a new level. She is an expert in cooking with the locally-sourced food of the South. Though many assert a devotion to locally-sourced food, Felicia makes it a top priority to shop at producers within 90 miles of Memphis, and she meets new farmers on her weekly farmer’s market trips. The tomatoes she uses in her Bloody Marys are from Tennessee, additional produce is from Mississippi and the ingredients used in her ice cream desserts are sent directly to her door from Oleo Acres Farm in Tennessee. This expertise in local food has led to the creation of her product line, called Flo’s. She cans each product seasonally, and makes enough tomato jam, pepper jelly, chow-chow and pickles to keep her customers happy the entire year.

Felicia is also an ambassador for the Memphis and Tennessee culinary community. She’s a local leader who is always willing to sell Memphis by selling everyone. She has participated in the Memphis BBQ/Winemaker Dinner in Santa Barbara, Calif., and “Memphis Goes Hog Wild in Oregon” in Portland, Ore.

Outside of her influence on the Memphis culinary circle, she is also an entertainer. She holds a dinner party in her home each Sunday night, and her guests represent a cross-section of Memphis. She has cooked for business leaders at their duck hunting lodge along the Mississippi Flyway and for leaders in Arkansas politics.

In 2015, Felicia continues to find ways to improve her restaurant and dishes with the same tenacity that has brought her success. In May, she was named “Executive of the Year” at the Memphis Business Journal’s Small Business Awards. She continues to grow and expand the Flo’s Homemade Goodness product line, now available for purchase at ten retail stores across the Mid-South. Recently, she began hosting a series of cooking segments, “Felicia’s Kitchen,” on the up and coming The Southern Weekend webchannel.