CHEF & CO-OWNER SUZETTE GRESHAM’S STORY
Over the course of her over 29+ years at the helm of her kitchen, Chef Suzette Gresham, Acquerello’s co-owner and Executive chef, has had a profound impact on the culinary world. Acquerello has held a spot every year on the SF Chronicle’s Top 100 Bay Area Restaurant List since it’s inception 22 years ago. The restaurant has received a Michelin star every year since 2007. In 2014 it was awarded a second star. Suzette is only the third woman in the U.S. to hold this title. While these prestigious achievements are a source of pride for her, they are not the driving force behind her career; the cuisine and her cooks – above all else, are what keep her in the kitchen.
In 1980 she was the first female apprentice to be on the U.S. Culinary Olympic team. Four years later, she returned as an individual competitor and brought home a Bronze medal. She was honored to become the first Junior Member of the ACF and later held a position on the Board of Directors for three terms. Numerous awards and accolades from both local and international institutions have punctuated her career. At a time when there were few female chefs she was proud to quietly dispel the myth that women didn’t belong in a professional kitchen.
Suzette produces more than just meals at Acquerello. She and her team provide experiences for the diner that are emblematic of what they could expect in Italy. Through her dedication to elevated hospitality, the execution of soulful and thoughtful dishes, and a mission to educate and inspire all those who come through the door, she has found an Italian timelessness. She remains current by listening to diners, maintaining an awareness of her marketplace, and revitalizing forgotten ingredients and classic dishes through interpretive applications. “Materia prima,” or quality ingredients, along with seasonality, tradition, and philosophy are the driving forces behind Acquerello’s style.
Just as ingredients have been a pillar in her cooking, education has been a hallmark of her legacy. Suzette strives to make Acquerello all about opportunity. She enjoys growing cooks as much as making food. It is with this philosophy in mind that Suzette has successfully passed 63 interns through her kitchen. It is her belief that without a strong foundation, it is impossible to create new, bold flavor profiles or interpret the classics.
You first need to understand why techniques came to be, how traditions were started, and what role ingredients play in the regions from which they hail. Before the “Me Too” movement, of which she is a survivor, Suzette dared to run a professional kitchen free from fear, intimidation, and ridicule, regardless of gender. “If you love really love your craft, and this industry, it is your duty to learn all you can and then share that knowledge with the next generation to follow.
• Bronze Metal, U.S. Culinary Olympic team, 1980- First female
• Antonin Careme Metal, Awarded by American Culinary Federation
• Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants, San Francisco Chronicle since inception 1996 (19 years)
• Nominee, Outstanding Restaurant, James Beard Foundation (2015)
• One Michelin Star since first Bay Area Guide in 2007
• Two Michelin Stars, 2015 – 3rd Female Chef in the U.S. to receive this award
Food Photo Credit: Truffle Shuffle