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Susanne Dillingham, owner, The Tiny Chef

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At 24 years old, Susanne Dillingham can make any young entrepreneur feel humble. She attended culinary school in Italy and returned to open a business here called The Tiny Chef, which she created to prepare private dinners in people's homes and to give hands-on cooking classes.

Creative Loafing: How did it help to learn in Italy opposed to the United States?

Susanne Dillingham: Italians have a really relaxed attitude towards cooking. You learn to not freak out in the kitchen, and just take it as you go. You can develop what they call your "sixth sense," which is your cooking sense. That consists of learning to use all your senses together at the same time when you're cooking. I am going to move back there in about a year to focus on wine; I would love to get involved with making wine.

How do you keep your views on the culinary culture fresh?

I travel a lot. I go to Italy twice a year, and I love it there but also learn a lot while I'm there. I have taught classes in a city named Jesi, Italy. I also go to Sebastopol, Calif. to teach at Viva Culinary Institute of Florence once a year. I always try to stay learning, and I am constantly in a class -- whether it is a wine class or something else. I am constantly learning.

Where did you develop an interest in wine?

That started in Italy as well. I took a class for one semester, and it was with a horrible teacher, which made for a horrible experience. Then the next semester I took a class with a crazy teacher named Jonathan. He would get so emotional and crazy when he talked about wine that veins would pop out on his forehead. Before that I had no interest in wine, but as he told us historical, personal and funny stories about wine, the less I thought he was crazy and the more I got excited. He was the one who told me to always keep learning.

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