Susan Benton, Founder & Owner
As a culinary enthusiast, writer, artist, and entrepreneur living along Hwy 30A in Grayton Beach, 30AEats.com was born during the 2011 BP oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico. Many like myself were worried about the health of our Gulf, it’s inhabitants, our own safety, and the sustainability of our seafood. As a wife and mother who is passionate about my community, I decided to create a website to share with readers the people behind our food, where good food comes from, and where it could be found. My goal was and is to help others discover the flavors unique to our region, so that they in turn will support the people that feed us, invest in it and themselves, and buy local products.
My work includes developing recipes for magazines and food companies, media appearances, speaking and culinary engagements, content creation, brand representation, and judging food related competitions with celebrity chefs and other note worthy individuals. I have raised two children in South Walton since their kindergarten days who are now off pursuing their own careers, and I am married to a Pensacola orthopaedic surgeon, which does come in handy.
In the late 1990’s, I was in a near fatal head-on collision that required multiple surgeries. The easiest way to describe the outcome is to say I fractured everything but my right arm and my face. The left side of my body was crushed, along with both legs, and I sustained internal injuries as well.
Divine intervention, my incredible medical trauma team (which included my now husband), and my family nourished me through more than forty surgical procedures to date, and helped me get to the place where I am today; walking and back to life!
My former husband, whom I met at LSU in Baton Rouge, was raised in his parents New Orleans restaurant. His uncles and cousins were shrimpers and fishermen supplying fresh Gulf seafood to the surrounding area, while his mother (since passed) and aunts were cooks and seafood wholesalers; many still working the Rigolets today, and living along the Chef Menteur.
Being around his family opened my eyes to a different way of life and culinary culture, and I liked it. While attending LSU, I gained knowledge about pairing food and drink by working in a popular wine and cheese shop, but looked forward to the weekends when I could slip on my white shrimp boots and escape to the salt water.
I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Education, a minor in Health & Nutrition, and worked in the Ascension, East Baton Rouge and Terrebonne Parish school systems, prior to holding positions with United Way South Louisiana and The American Cancer Society in Mobile and New Orleans.
My years spent in high school and college in New Orleans fueled my passion for good food, and for learning about South Louisiana’s history and heritage while my father was stationed there. Growing up in coastal communities and abroad for a short time as a child, I enjoyed crabbing after grade school along the river banks in Charleston, creating shrimp pancit with our housekeeper Lourdes in the Philippines, and cooking my first significant meal in our Algiers kitchen at the age of fifteen. It was jambalaya in my grandmother’s black iron skillet using Leon Soniat’s recipe from La Bouche Creole. I still have the cookbook, pages torn, some stuck together, ears bent and spiral binding broken, but it stays towards the front of my collection.
As the daughter of a Naval officer who traveled internationally, I was fortunate to learn about new cultures and to try many cuisines. I trotted the globe with the anticipation of each new place we were going to visit or live, but the South beckoned us home.
My father and generations before him hail from Alabama and were in the grocery business in Carbon Hill, while my mother’s family is from Georgia, with most migrating to Orlando to live in the “country” rich with orange groves and agriculture where she was raised, the landscape never to be the same.
My grandmother, Lillie, remarried after my grandfather passed before I was born, and joined the only grandfather that I ever knew as a peanut farmer in Statesboro, Georgia. I cherished every second we spent visiting them on the farm, driving his tractor through the peanut fields, catching catfish in the nearby pond with my sister, and sharing authentic field-to-fork meals gathered around a small kitchen table. There were also not so fond memories, like watching my father ring a chickens neck for the first time. Of course it ended up perfectly fried and on our Sunday supper plates.
Having spent most of my days in the south, mainly along the Gulf Coast, and Florida’s Panhandle for the last twenty years, I have built a lifetime of knowledge, skills, and relationships with many interesting people in the food, travel, and art communities. I am always open to learning and sharing ways to incorporate and promote local fisherman, chefs, farmers, artisans, and restaurants into the “new” movement of the moment, all while savoring the rich history and legacy of our southern culture.
(Photo credit: Laura Bogan Photography)
Owner of 30AEATS.com
Owner of GulfCoastRestaurants.com
Owner of SusanBentonArt.com
The Daily Meal
The Local Palate
The Seaside Times
Honest Cooking Online Magazine
The Southern Coterie.. to name a few.
Former Board Member: Children’s Volunteer Health Network
Member James Beard Foundation
Member Southern Foodways Alliance
Member Cultural Arts Alliance
Member (Sustainer) Junior League of Pensacola
Caroline Pugh, Web Manager and Social Media Specialist
Caroline Pugh is a graduate of the University of Alabama and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Science. She is the web manager and social media specialist for GulfCoastRestaurants.com. Caroline also develops healthy recipes for 30AEats.com and loves trying new restaurants, keeping up with the latest fashions, and spends as much time as possible at the beach with her family and friends. Caroline is proud to have grown up in the small community of Seaside, Florida, along Highway 30A. With a passion for food and fashion, she was employed at Modica Market in Seaside in middle school, then at Deja Vu and Mercatile clothing stores throughout high school and college. She is currently the manager for Effie’s Boutique in Tuscaloosa.
Magazine Contributor to The Daily Meal
ServSafe and CPR certified