Suzie Stephens is a woman who is constantly reinventing herself. Whether it is through her work, community involvement or worldly travels, Stephens continues to find ways to make her fast-paced lifestyle more fun and exciting. Not only does she own Nibbles Academy of Cooking, but she is co-owner of both George’s Majestic Lounge and the Arkansas Music Pavilion.
These successful endeavors stem from years of hard work and dedication, beginning with the years she spent at the University of Arkansas. “I liked that I didn’t have to wear a uniform. I felt so ‘footloose and fancy free,’” she laughed. Earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in speech and dramatic art, Stephens credits her honors world literature professor, the late John Locke, with helping her get serious about school, saying, “He snapped me into shape.” She also recognizes former English professor Dwain Manske as someone she admired so much that she took all of his courses. “I feel like I received the finest education in Arkansas. It really showed me that this was the place I needed to be,” she said.
While working toward her doctorate, Stephens discovered her passion for food. Deciding that becoming a chef was her true vocation, she turned to catering and established notable contacts inside and outside Northwest Arkansas. “My first catering event, I catered for Betty and Dr. Bill Harrison and then I ended up catering for Dr. Spock at a fundraiser,” she remembered.
In the late ’70s and early ’80s, she wrote a variety of cookbooks and eventually opened her own catering business, Nibbles. For years, it operated as a dining establishment, as well as a catering service; however, in 2001, Stephens and her husband, Jim Hatfield, decided to make a switch. It now operates as a Nibbles Academy of Cooking, a place where customers can take cooking classes, have lunch and book private events. Apart from her work at Nibbles, Stephens teamed up with Brian Crowne and bought George’s Majestic Lounge and the Arkansas Music Pavilion.
Stephens may stay busy with her various businesses; however, staying connected to the university is still a priority on her list. As an A + Life Member of the Arkansas Alumni Association, her involvement with the university and the association is profound. In 2006, the university unveiled “Il Porcellino,” a bronze Razorback statue donated by Stephens and her husband that now sits in front of University House. On a trip to Florence, Italy, Stephens discovered the statue and decided that a replica needed to be in Fayetteville. “I bought a 4,000 pound pig and when I told (Chancellor) Dave Gearhart about it, he asked me ‘what had I done,’” she said.
Her worldly travels expand far beyond the borders of Italy. Having traveled to all seven continents, Stephens has seen and experienced much of the world. In January 2010, she and her husband traveled to Tanzania, Africa with the Arkansas Alumni Association’s Razorbacks on Tour program. With the trip occurring in January, she wanted to make sure she was somewhere special on her birthday. “I can say that I stood at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro on my birthday. It was amazing,” she said. Of course, being the chef that she is, Stephens was also given the chance to cook for her fellow alumni in the Serengeti Lodge. Reflecting on her experience cooking Creole food, she laughed, saying, “I was the first woman allowed in the kitchen and the chef was scared of me. However, he was asking me for recipes by the time we left.”
Her involvement with the university extends beyond taking trips with alumni and donating a bronze statue. In 1995, when the university started its golf program, Stephens sat down with Bev Lewis, executive associate athletic director, and became the first person to endow a scholarship for the women’s golf program. It was named after her older sister Patty David, who was an avid golfer, but whose life ended abruptly when she was killed by a drunk driver when she was just a sophomore at the University of Arkansas. “My sister was always playing in tournaments; she was an amazing golfer,” she recalled.
Stephen’s dedication and continued participation with the university and the association has not gone unnoticed. In 2004, she was accepted as a member of the Towers of Old Main for her continual efforts in giving back to the university. As proud as she is of receiving such an honor, her membership with the association is one she holds in high regard. “One of the proudest moments of my life was the day I became a life member of the Arkansas Alumni Association,” she said.
Through all of her ventures and experiences, Stephens is certain of one thing, “No matter where you travel, you will always find someone with a Razorback hat, and when you do, you know you’re home.”