Becky Satterfield Biography:
Becky Satterfield is the pastry chef and owner of Satterfield’s Restaurant. She serves as the President of Les Dames D’Escoffier, Birmingham Chapter. And she was named one of “50 Female Chefs” by USA Today in 2018. In 2018, she also has plans to open a second restaurant, El ZunZún in Cahaba Heights.
Satterfield’s appreciation for ballet, classical music, vegetable gardens, nature's beauty, and cooking dates to her childhood. Julia Child’s The French Chef and other television cooking shows caught her attention at an early age. She also loved watching her mother and grandmothers cooking, while standing on a chair alongside them. “There was always a happy vibe in the kitchen when there was a task at hand,” she recalls. “Another aspect that I loved then and still love now is the teamwork involved in preparing meals for holiday events, or just Sunday lunch. It's also a joy being in the kitchen with other cooks. The camaraderie is inspiring. However, there are times I enjoy working by myself, too.”
Prior to starting her culinary career, Satterfield managed cost accounting for her husband and brother-in-law's construction company in Houston, worked as a paralegal in bankruptcy for a debtor's attorney and bankruptcy trustee, taught ballet part time, and enjoyed a short stint at Neiman Marcus. Eventually Satterfield became a stay at home mom, with time to focus on cooking and watch cooking shows, as well as gardening, planting vegetable and rose gardens. In 1998 she and her family moved from Houston to Mountain Brook.
After her daughter went to college, Satterfield went back to school too. She enrolled at Culinard. “Becoming a pastry chef and owning a restaurant happened organically. Somewhere hiding inside me was becoming a chef and owning a restaurant,” she describes. Along with other students she worked catering jobs with Culinard’s chef. And when her neighbors had parties she catered them. Yet when she was ready to grow beyond neighborhood catering and start a catering business, she had to get a business license. And this required a commercial kitchen. After looking at various properties she and her husband decided that rather than just a kitchen, she would open a restaurant, Satterfield’s Restaurant.
Fast forward to 2018… Satterfield is preparing to open her second restaurant, EL ZunZún in June. “The ideal inspiration for ZunZún came to me in the form of a tiny traveler visiting my lantana. On cross-country road trips, people will often stop and sample the “local flavor” along their journeys. The ruby-throated hummingbird is no different, as it adapts and sample along its path whatever will provide nourishment for the long voyage,” she explains. Satterfield researched and learned more and more about the ruby-throated hummingbird, and many other species, which populate the American West and Central and South America. “So many colors and sizes! One in particular, the Cuban emerald hummingbird, has the nickname, “ZunZún,” no doubt because of the zoom (Zun!) a person hears when buzzed by one of them,” she describes. “While we may not enjoy the Cuban Emerald in Birmingham, we certainly enjoy the garden visit of her cousin, the ruby-throated hummingbird, punctuated by the tell-tale, ‘Zun! Zun’! So, I thought this would be the perfect name for my new restaurant.”
This experience also opened up a whole new area of research for Satterfield: the regions of the migratory path and their signature ingredients, dishes, and cooking styles. “I’ve spent countless hours poring over cookbooks (some translated!), and stories of the foodways of the regions of Jalisco and Oaxaca. In the last year and a half, El ZunZún’s future executive chef, Angela Schmidt and I have spent a combined three months (with no plans to ever stop) in Mexico, taking classes, shopping in local markets, and working side-by-side with the abuelas (grandmothers) who patiently taught us the old ways.” Working with huitlacoche and nixtamal, sampling the hyperlocal mezcals, tequilas and antojitos, and braving her first encounter with chapulines are just a small sample of the techniques and dishes she hopes to bring to the table at El ZunZún.
Satterfield is also a food activist for non-GMO and organic food products. She purchases from farmers who grow heirloom vegetables and fruits. And she knows where her seafood comes from, and how her beef, pork, chickens, were raised. “It's a very important time for everybody to get involved in knowing more about their food, where it comes from and also the seeds that grew the food. All these seeds have stories from long journeys but unfortunately a lot of them got lost along the way to extinction.”
Another matter of great importance to Satterfield is allowing the food chain to work naturally without the interruption of chemicals. “There are organic, natural ways to rid pests without backpack spraying to kill mosquitoes and other insects. If you are killing mosquitoes, more than likely some neighbor nearby will lose their entire bee hive,” she explains. Satterfield believes that consumers need to realize the value of all the mason bees, honey bees, wasps, butterflies, moths, and hummingbirds and create habitats for them in their own yards. “If we kill off our pollinators, we will run out of food within a few years. There are farms renting truckloads of honey bees to come pollinate their farms, so their crops will grow.” She believes that we can all do our part to stop disposing chemicals upon nature, by buying heirloom seeds, saving them, and cataloging them to pass onto our children. “Plant butterfly, bee habitats, organic gardens in your yard so you can give back the respect Mother Nature deserves.”