Best New Chef 2008: Sue Zemanick
Best New Chef 2008: Sue Zemanick

Sue Zemanick

Why she won Because she has imbued a 25-year-old New Orleans restaurant with fresh energy, deftly adding modern European touches to a classic menu. Born Wilkes-Barre, PA; 1981. Education Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, NY. Experience Oceana, New York City; Commander’s Palace, New Orleans. Favorite childhood dish Pierogies, which she would make with her grandmother Elizabeth Yanok for their local church fund-raisers. “We’d fill them with wild mushrooms that we’d foraged. All the old ladies would yell at us that we were doing it wrong.” Favorite after-hours hangout d.b.a., in New Orleans. “It’s a great, beautiful bar. I get vodka and soda in a plastic cup. My father owned a bar, so I know that plastic cups are the best way to go—a bar sink isn’t always the most sanitary place.” Favorite cookbook Alain Ducasse’s Grand Livre de Cuisine. “It’s, like, 1,000 pages. I don’t really use the recipes, but I always find inspiration there.”
A splash of bourbon in the vinaigrette adds a sweet, boozy kick of flavor and helps tenderize the shrimp in 2008 BNC chef Sue Zemanick’s shrimp and okra kebabs. Cutting okra in half lengthwise keeps it big enough to skewer and get charred and crispy on the grill, without falling through the grates. Chef Zemanick recommends salting the okra and cooking at a high heat for the best texture. “Everything about this dish screams summer to me,” Zemanick says. “Being able to cook with ingredients that are in season simultaneously helps to ensure a delicious dish. Although I truly believe fresh is best, feel free to save time by buying peeled fresh or frozen shrimp.”
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Instead of using high-calorie coconut milk, Sue Zemanick of New Orleans' Gautreau's substitutes coconut water (the clear liquid inside young coconuts) and a touch of full-fat sour cream to add richness to this curry sauce. Lime juice and red curry paste contribute superb tanginess and flavor, too. Restaurant Coverage from F&W Editors  
The mix of fresh crab, avocado and juicy heirloom tomatoes here is a classic combination. But Sue Zemanick makes it seem new by tossing the salad with a vibrant, spicy dressing spiked with jalapeño.