Graduate: 2011, Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago
Current Position: Owner, Chef Suzy Singh, LLC; Master Chef Season 2 Contestant
Chef Suzy Singh’s "heart belongs to Le Cordon Bleu"
When Chef Suzy Singh decided to follow her passion for cooking, she was already seven years into a successful career as a bioengineer in neurosurgery at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
She says she became “obsessed with the brain” at a very young age and wanted to be a neurosurgeon when she grew up. Working in the OR from 6am to 6pm, Singh found that the time she didn't spend at work, she spent in the kitchen – something she’d been doing since the very young age of 5, after learning to make applesauce from scratch in her kindergarten class.
Singh’s “true passion” – cooking – never left her, and she decided to act on it after seeing a TV commercial and attending an open house at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago. She remembers, “The first day that I started cooking with Chef Tefs at the Chicago campus, it was a life-changing moment for me. I had so much energy and so much adrenaline during that first class. . . and it dawned on me that this is what I was supposed to do for the rest of my life. . .this is what brings me the most joy!” Leaving a successful career behind her, something virtually unheard of in her Punjabi Sikh culture, she focused her attention on her Le Cordon Bleu training.
A familiar face to many, Suzy appeared as a contestant on Fox TV’s Master Chef – Season 2. It was at the Le Cordon Bleu campus that she was discovered by the "MasterChef" producers as she was walking down the hall carrying a 3 story gingerbread house. Her bubbling personality struck them as someone who must audition for the show. Eight auditions later, she was off to LA for filming. Not yet completing culinary school, Suzy qualified as a contestant. As luck would have it, Suzy then found herself right where she wanted to be – in front of a camera. As her dream, ironically, is to host a television show and teach others to cook.
She loves teaching others to cook almost as much as she loves cooking and is already doing that through her company, Chef Suzy Singh, LLC. The company specializes in Culinary Consulting – talking to restaurants about menu concepts and ideas; Cooking Classes, where she helps people revitalize their sense of cooking by teaching them how to elevate even basic dishes to something that is fresh and different than they would have expected; and Celebrity Dinner Events, like the one she did in July 2011 for tennis legend, John McEnroe. She feels that with a culinary certificate there are so many things she can do.
Suzy’s cooking philosophy is "smart cooking" – just good basic food, made with fresh ingredients, that tastes delicious and is presented in a very extraordinary way. She believes, "To find fulfillment is to find your life's work and pursue it whole heartedly."
Getting to Know Chef Suzy Singh - Q/A
"If you tell the world what your dream is, they'll help you find it."
Why did you choose Le Cordon Bleu?
I was looking for a school that taught classic French technique. I think the basis for cooking is definitely French cooking. . .and Le Cordon Bleu is the only one that held a light to that in the city of Chicago.. [It's] the reason why I've been able to use a lot of technique in my cuisine. . .Le Cordon Bleu is my heart.
What is one thing that you learned in culinary school that has proven to be indispensible throughout your culinary career?
You should have complete integrity with everything that you do. . .that holds true in the food and communication and people in the kitchen.
What career goals have you accomplished since graduating from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago?
My ultimate goal is to empower people to become better chefs in their kitchen. . .through the show, I've been getting a lot of emails and phone calls and letters from people saying that they have been inspired by my transition from neural engineering to cooking. . . it's been an amazing journey already and a massive accomplishment just to empower others to do what they would love to do instead of what's expected of them.
What Le Cordon Bleu foundational technique do you feel is the most important skill to master?
One thing that you have to master are your cuts. . .whether it's doing a julienne or a mastodon or a batonnet. . .I still try to master it every day. It's a lifelong process.
What is your favorite flavor combination to use while cooking and why?
I always use something sweet with something salty. . .and umami combines everything together. It's a Japanese term that represents flavors that create food memories. It's decadence – heavy cream is umami, butter is umami, pondsu is umami.
What cooking trend do you see gaining more popularity this year?
The overall sense of trend is getting down to basics – and this is internationally. If you go to France right now, you'll notice all the Michelin star restaurants are the really simple, actually American classic, type of restaurants. . . that's a huge trend, just getting down to the basics and having just good food, presented in a very extraordinary way. . .I love it. I mean that's something I live by.
What ethnic/global cuisines will be the big trend this year?
Definitely Indian, not only because I'm Indian. (Singh's parents are from India and moved to the United States the year before she was born.) It seems to be like a massive trend.
Where do you see yourself professionally in ten years?
On TV teaching people how to cook, where you can reach a larger audience. I've got a really quirky personality so I think it just works for TV.
Name a working chef that inspires you and why.
Grant Achatz is one of them from Alenia and Next...He inspires others to take food to the next level. He is a force to be reckoned with, a true inspiration. I also consider my mother and father an inspiration. They're not professional chefs, but they came to this country to pursue their dream. . .and that's something that I feel I am now doing.
What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue a culinary career?
Go to different culinary schools, see what works for you, and, if anything, I know Le Cordon Bleu has Master Chef Cooking Classes, [taught by Le Cordon Bleu Chefs] so attend one of those and see what it's like to work in a kitchen with professionals.
Career success will depend largely on the effort put into studies, job search efforts, experience and attitude. The experience of this alumnus is not representative of all students. This graduate story is unique and may not represent typical experiences or outcomes for our graduates. Graduates should expect to pursue entry-level opportunities in their chosen fields.