Susan Benton

11I love food. It is just that simple. No matter where I may travel, it is my mission to source out the best, most unique food and drink possible. I enjoy meeting the people behind the operations; from chefs, fisherman, farmers, artisan cheese makers, wine makers and distillers…just to name a few. As a home cook, I find their work compelling, interesting and I am humbled to be surrounded by people in an industry so driven and dedicated to their craft. Their work feeds our basic needs, yet can be transformed into magical works of artistry on a plate or in a glass.

As a culinary enthusiast and entrepreneur living on the Gulf Coast, was born out of fear. During the 2011 BP oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico, many like myself worried about the health of our Gulf, it’s inhabitants, our own safety, seafood and sustainability. As a cook, writer, photographer, and artist, passionate about my local 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. It has been my goal  and pleasure to help others discover the flavors of our Northwest Florida region, so that they in turn will support the people that feed us good food, invest in it and themselves, and buy local products.

Along with the above, I also develop recipes for famed cookbook authors, chefs and food establishments. My work includes television and media appearances, speaking and culinary engagements, content creation, spokesperson representation, and I enjoy judging food related competitions with celebrity chefs and other note worthy individuals. I am currently writing my first cookbook to be released in 2015. I have raised two children in South Walton since their kindergarten days who are now off enjoying college, and I am married to a talented Pensacola orthopaedic surgeon, which does come in handy.

In the late 1990’s, I was in a near fatal head-on collision and the easiest way to describe the outcome is to say I fractured everything but my right arm and my face, sustaining internal injuries as well. Divine intervention, my superior medical team (which yes, included my now husband), and my family stood by me through more than forty surgical procedures and are what helped me get to the place where I am today. Alive.

My former husband, whom I met at LSU-Baton Rouge, was raised in his parents New Orleans restaurant. His uncles and cousins were shrimpers and fishermen supplying fresh Gulf seafood to local eating establishments, while his mother (since passed) and aunts were chefs, cooks and seafood wholesalers; many still working today in the Rigolets, and living along the Chef Menteur. Being around his family opened my eyes to a different way of life and eating, and I liked it. While attending LSU, I modeled for Maison Blanche (no longer in existence), and gained knowledge about pairing food and drink by working in a local wine and cheese shop, but enjoyed slipping on my white shrimp boots and escaping on the weekends to the salt water. I graduated with a BS in Education and minor in Health & Nutrition, working in the Ascension, East Baton Rouge and Terrebonne Parish school systems, and also 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 history and heritage while my father was stationed, and retired there. Growing up on the Gulf coast, with a stop on the lower east coast, and abroad for a short time as a child, I enjoyed crabbing after grade school along the river banks in Charleston, making shrimp pancit with our housekeeper Lourdes in the Philippines, and cooking my first significant meal at our home 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 stuck together, ears turned and spiral binding broken, but it works fine and stays towards the front of the collection in my pantry.

As the daughter of a Naval Officer who traveled internationally, I was fortunate to learn about new cultures and try many cuisines. I trotted the globe with the anticipation of each new place we were going to visit or live, but our Southern roots 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 some lingering in Savannah. Most migrated to Orlando to live in the “country” rich with orange groves and agriculture where my mother was raised, the landscape never to be the same. My grandmother, Lillie, went on to remarry her high school sweetheart after my grandfather passed, and joined him as a peanut farmer in Statesboro, Georgia. I adored every minute we spent visiting them on the farm, driving the tractor through the peanut fields, catching catfish in the nearby pond with my sister, and sharing authentic field-to-fork meals with family gathered around a small table in my Memaw’s kitchen. There were not so fond memories too, like watching my father ring a chickens neck for the first time with a hanger that ended up fried and on our dinner plates. But it was fresh and delicious!

Having been fortunate to spend most of my days in the South, mainly the Gulf Coast, and now in Florida’s Northwest Panhandle for the last twenty years, I have built a lifetime of knowledge, skills, and relationships with so many magnificent people in the food and travel industry. I am always eager to learn and absorb new ideas, share 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
Owner of
Cookbook to be published in 2015
Contributor to The Daily Meal
Contributor to Emerald Coast Magazine
Contributor bi-monthly to Thirty-A Review Magazine
Contributor to VIE Magazine
Contributor to Beaches, Resorts and Parks Magazine
Contributor to Coastal Lifestyles Magazine
Contributor bi monthly to The Seaside Times
Contributor to Honest Cooking online
Contributor monthly to Southern Coterie (Southern Living Blog)
Contributor to Coastal Angler Magazine
Board Member: Children’s Volunteer Health Network
Member Coastal Conservation Association
Member Association of Food Journalists
Member (former) IFWTWA
Member Association of Food Bloggers
Member James Beard Foundation
Member Southern Foodways Alliance
Member Cultural Arts Alliance
Sustainer-Member Junior League of Pensacola
Member of The Fishin Chix, Pensacola

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6 thoughts on “Susan Benton

  1. I had the most joyous conversation with your husband Dr. Benton. First let me say Ive been in was married to you because I know 30AEats!!! I have enjoyed everything you have ever written!
    I have soooo much I would love to share with you. Ive been in sever pain for 2 months and walked out of his office a new man today!!! I am also a cookbook author “Cooking in the Deep-South with chef Bob” with another book on the back burner. chef John Folse and Michael Ruhlman both have permanent blurbs on my book cover. I am the president of, inc. a company we have entrusted our adult children to operate (I travel back and forth to Birmingham mainly for meetings and appearances.)
    My wife Darlene and I married 31 years met I was a cook and she a waitress, and in a sense I am still a cook and she still serves the public. in our semi retirement I started Olive Catering (a non-profit) we do high-end weddings, dinners, corporate etc. I also direct the culinary program at Olive Baptist church over 13,000 members. Im on the board of directors Christian Chefs International and board of advisors Christian Culinary Academy. I hope we can chat more in depth in the near future. office 850-475-1126 cell 850-529-1211
    sincerely, chef Bob Vaningan

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