2017 New York City Rising Star Chef Suzanne Cupps of Untitled

2017 New York City Rising Star Chef Suzanne Cupps of Untitled
January 2017

While spending the summers on her grandfather’s farm in central Pennsylvania, Suzanne Cupps developed an appreciation for seasonal, farm-to-table cooking—even if she wasn’t interested in helping her mom out at the stove. But that would change. A graduate of Clemson University, Cupps went on to work at the Waldorf Astoria New York in the human resources department. Quickly, she realized her love for the hospitality industry and at the same time, cooking. She enrolled at the Institute for Culinary Education and, during her formal training, completed an externship with Union Square Hospitality Group at Gramercy Tavern. 

After graduation, Cupps began her professional career at Anita Lo’s mainstay restaurant, Annisa. Th ree years into her tenure, Annisa was destroyed by a fi re, and Cupps was instrumental in the restaurant institution’s rebuilding and reopening. Bolstered, and building skills and confi dence, Cupps moved back to Gramercy Tavern in 2011, where Michael Anthony’s careful sourcing and New American approach resonated with her upbringing. She started as a line cook, quickly rising to sous chef. She was responsible for expediting lunch and dinner in both the main dining room and the Tavern. In 2015, Cupps was tapped by Danny Meyer and mentor Anthony to be chef de cuisine at Untitled and the rooftop Studio Cafe, both inside the Whitney Museum of American Art.



Interview with New York City Rising Star Chef Suzanne Cupps of Untitled

AB: How did you get your start?
SC:
My grandfather had a farm near Penn State, and my mom cooked every night. My dad is Filipino, and my mom is American, and we ate lot of Filipino food growing up. I grew up in South Carolina but wasn’t interested in Southern cuisine. I started cooking in college, but it wasn’t until moving to New York City after college that I started to work in the culinary industry. I was a math major in college and wasn’t creative. In New York, I dated an actor who pushed me to be creative. I went to the Institute of Culinary Eduaction against my family’s wishes, quit my job, and went to culinary school. If nothing else, I’d become a good cook. I learned from nothing and didn’t know difference between cilantro and parsley or how to hold a knife. I wanted to be perfect, and I wanted a job standing up. 

AB: Tell us about your first jobs?
SC:
I worked at Gramercy Tavern as an extern. I was never in kitchen. Ijust did a lot of prep work,and got courage to work in the industry. For my first job, I interviewed with Anita Lo. She hired me on the spot and became an amazing mentor. It’s a small kitchen, but it pushed me to the next level. I worked for her for five and a half years.

AB: How are you involved in the local culinary community?
SC:
Being part of Union Square Hospitality Group as a whole, and working for Mike Anthony, influenced what I pay attention to—and it pushes me to keep my head up and see what’s going on around me.
I did a panel at USHG with five of their leaders from all different areas, and talked to group of 150 women connected to restaurant industry. We talked about how they got to their position, usually held by males. 

We also do a chef series for which we open the kitchen and invite chefs in to do dinners—our menu menu plus dishes they bring in. We’ve had Jonathan Waxman, Bill Telepan, and Jamie Bissonnette. Untitled pays for it. The chef just comes in and cooks. We get to meet a new crew—it’s about cross-pollination

AB: What's your five-year plan?
SC:
It’s hard to say because I want to have kids. I want to open my own restaurant here in New York—something vegetable focused—but I don’t know how it will translate. 

AB: If you were to give advice to young cook, what would you say?
SC:
Work in a restaurant. Find a good mentor, and get in a kitchen that teaches. It’s important to put your head down and get work done. At the same time, it’smportant to keep your head up and watch the people around—how they handlthemselves and cook food.