SueChef Fine Kitchenware

Written by Lacy Myers in the September 2005 Issue

Kitchenware, Cooking Classes and Gourmet Foods
Suellen and Keith Hazelton, owners of SueChef Fine Kitchenware, understand that cooking is more than preparing a meal — it’s an experience.

“People are happy when they are in the kitchen cooking, surrounded by friends and family,” Suellen said. “We want them to remember the smell of the kitchen and their experience here; our goal is to make people happy.”

With a store like SueChef, it’s easy to see how cooking enthusiasts would leave happy. Hard-to-find cooking utensils, like the German brand WMF, small appliances and a wonderful selection of Wusthof knives are neatly displayed. Gourmet sauces and oils line the shelves. Everything from soups, casseroles, dips, even Keith’s very own Really Good Chicken Salad are waiting to be purchased and enjoyed with family and friends. And, customers are delighted upon hearing that recipes are posted on the SueChef website.
The idea for SueChef was sparked when the couple moved from Norman to north Oklahoma City and found few specialty cooking stores in the area. That, combined with the growth and development in Edmond and north Oklahoma City, led the Hazeltons to feel that they had found a niche in the market.

“We are real excited to be in this part of the city. It’s rewarding to hear people say, ‘It’s so great that you are here,’” Suellen said.
The Hazeltons opened SueChef, which specializes in kitchenware, gourmet foods and cooking classes, in early 2004 as part of The Market. They quickly moved to their new location, where they again expanded their operation in May of this year to accommodate more merchandise and a demonstration kitchen for cooking classes led by local chefs.

Classes in the new demonstration kitchen range from learning how to cook shrimp and beef to recipes with European flair. They are led by some of Oklahoma City’s most recognized chefs -- Chad Willis, Walter Husbands and Josh Lantz -- and are priced around $35 per person.

What’s behind the name SueChef, you are probably wondering?

“Well, it’s a play on words,” Suellen said. A sous-chef (pronounced sue) is a French term meaning the chef who is second in authority in a restaurant or kitchen, ranking below the head chef. Mixed with the pronunciation and her name Suellen, Keith came up with the name SueChef.

“A local culinary student came into the store and told me the name (SueChef) was misspelled,” Suellen said with a laugh. “I told him, no, that’s the way I’ve always spelled my name.”

With their business revolving around cooking and food, it’s most fitting that the couple met at a restaurant. Both were in Colorado on Sept. 11, 2001: Keith at a professional conference and Suellen visiting a friend, when all flights were grounded and they were forced to stay a few extra days. Upon returning home, Suellen to Norman and Keith to Columbus, Ohio, they began a long-distance relationship, which ultimately led to Keith moving to Norman about three years ago.



Operations at SueChef could be called well-oiled. Keith, who is in the banking industry, manages the financial matters while Suellen manages the operations. Both love to cook. For Suellen, the passion for food must be somewhat genetic. She remembers her mother and grandmother always cooking. For Keith, the passion developed differently. “I was divorced with young kids at home and just grew tired of eating McDonald’s and Pizza Hut all the time,” he said.

With the trend in cooking shows like “Iron Chef America” and “Emeril,” it’s becoming more acceptable for men to be in the kitchen. In fact, the Hazeltons estimate that 35 to 40 percent of their customers are male.

As much fun as the Hazeltons have in owning and operating their own business, Suellen is quick to point out that being an entrepreneur is not all glitz and glamour. “It’s not as easy as it sounds,” she said. “There have been a lot of nights that we’ve been here until midnight or so stocking and getting ready to open But, we love what we do and enjoy making people happy.”

SueChef Fine Kitchenware is located at 13825 N. May Avenue. For more information about their cooking classes, call 752-2433 or visit www.suechef.com.

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