Meet Our Recipe Makers: Suzie Heller & Jorge Velazquez
It’s August in the Napa Valley. As I walk up the narrow street, I can smell the distinct aroma of meat on a smoker fills my nostrils. I’m excited to join the party, but a bit nervous. I’ve been invited to attend a chef’s potluck. The chefs are all famous here in Northern California, and beyond, for their culinary accomplishments and amazing restaurants. And the guest of honor is chef, educator and television personality, Jacques Pepin.
I walk up to the crowd and a hearty and cheerful voice calls out, “Are the Snake River Farms guy?” A stout gentleman wearing an apron and holding tongs peaks out from behind the smoker.
“Hey,” he says, I’m Jorge” and reached out to shake my hand. This is how I met Jorge Velazquez.
Without asking, it’s clear Jorge knows beef by the way he handles the giant American Wagyu plate ribs with care and authority. It turns out he is known around Napa for his mastery of butchery.
“If you’re looking for Susie,” he says, “You’ll find her in the kitchen. Susie Heller is the host of the evening’s event and her kitchen is not like anything I’ve seen. It’s huge, spacious and has a massive countertop that is used to shoot video segments.
Susie and I have emailed and talked by phone countless times. On the phone, she’s energetic, enthusiastic and knowledgeable about food from around the world. When I meet her in person, she is all those things and more. Everyone I meet has a “Susie story” so I learn a few fun facts.
Susie was the producer, executive producer or culinary producer of seven of Jacques Pepin’s popular TV shows. She has an amazing resume in food media ranging from television and cookbook production working with some of the world’s foremost chefs, including Thomas Keller, Julia Child, Jose Andres and Mourad Lahlou.
According to Jacques Pepin, Susie read about a trip he was taking to China and she had the chutzpah to call him out of the blue and offer to be his producer on the road. He accepted her offer and they became fast friends.
Susie co-authored some of the world’s most famous cookbooks, including Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry Cookbook. She tested every recipe in the book and her friends said they made sure to stop by her house often to offer to “help” which lead to many amazing meals to go.
In addition to his expertise in butchery, Jorge Velazquez is also an accomplished chef and has headed up the kitchens at numerous area wineries including Silver Oak, Far Niente and Viader. He’s also worked as the butcher for Charter Oak, Michelin Star chef Christopher Kostow’s restaurant in St. Helena.
Napa Valley is full of talented chefs and culinary experts, but Jorge and Susie found themselves working together often and built a strong friendship outside the workplace. If you take a look at their social media feeds (at least before the pandemic) you’ll see festive lobster boils, beautiful alfresco table settings, and very frequently, some savory images of Snake River Farms beef and pork.
Since restaurants were closed this past year and many projects were on hold, we asked Susie and Jorge if they might create a few recipes for Snake River Farms. Happily, they said “yes” and proceeded to develop 12 amazing recipes you’ll begin to see on our site.
We’re fortunate to have these two talented individuals collaborate to bring life to our products. Susie’s bio sums it up this way:
“Susie’s favorite pastime is cooking Snake River Farms beef and pork with her BFF Jorge.” Take a read through their recipes and you can feel the camaraderie and skill this duo brings to the table.