HistoryThus, in 1931 was born Suzanne's Chalet
In the “Boom Days” of the 1920’s, Carl and Bertha Hinshaw Sr. moved to the quiet community of Lake of the Hills, north of Lake Wales, Florida, to be near her aging parents. A short while later they found themselves partnered with J.L. Kraft, head of the Kraft Cheese Company. Together they planned to develop a lovely community- golfing, tennis and other amenities were planned for their acreage.
Shortly after construction began, the Great Depression ended the real estate boom in Florida. Most investors, including Mr. Kraft, withdrew from their expansive plans and returned north. Then, during a harsh winter in 1931, Carl Hinshaw Sr., age 47, developed pneumonia and passed away. Carl’s widow, Bertha, was left with their home, one “do-everything” servant, and two young children.
The Hinshaws had always traveled and entertained a great deal, so Bertha, a determined and gutsy lady, decided to make a living for her family doing what she knew best, making people feel at home.
Thus, in 1931, was born Suzanne’s Chalet, named after her only daughter. Actually, the business was first known as Suzanne’s Tavern, which drew inquiries as to the type of venture Bertha might be operating. The name was permanently changed to Chalet Suzanne some while later.
A week after putting a small sign out on State Highway 8 (now State Road 17) advertising her new enterprise, the first family of travelers stopped by for a visit. They loved the food, friendship and unique atmosphere the Chalet offered and subsequently returned year after year to relax and be entertained by Bertha and her children.
Soon after those first visitors departed, Mr. And Mrs. Duncan Hines, who were touring the state at the time, discovered Suzanne’s Chalet.
They were so enthralled that the Hines’ included the Chalet in a Christmas card list they had written to send to their friends. It was a catalogue of wonderful places to stay and dine on the way to and from Florida. Of course, from this list grew Adventures in Good Eating by Duncan Hines, one of the first leisure travel books in the United States, and the Chalet Suzanne was always listed prominently in those pages. We should all know how the rest of the Duncan Hines story evolved. His food products are available throughout the world today.
With son Carl Junior and daughter Suzanne helping, Chalet Suzanne grew in popularity. Then World War II began and Carl, a pilot, went off to do his patriotic duty. Suzanne grew wings as well when she married a favorite guest, Ernest Otto, and moved with him to New York City.
Then, with Bertha tending the business alone, tragedy struck. At three in the morning a fire began in the kitchen. Despite the efforts of many of the local residents and the local volunteer fire department, the main house with the dining rooms burned to the ground. For quite some time after the fire, Central Florida citizens felt the loss of the Chalet Suzanne, as it had already become a landmark for the area.
After the war, Carl returned from the Pacific to help his mother rebuild. Since there was no money and few building materials available, one wing of the stable and several outbuildings were dismantled and added to the family play room, which still stood over the lake. Material from a chicken house and an old help house were added as well, giving the new dining rooms fourteen different levels. This might help explain the unusual architecture of the Chalet Suzanne restaurant.
A favorite of celebrities, Chalet Suzanne has a proud heritage and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. On the property are five dining rooms, 30 guest rooms, a landing strip for airplanes, a gift shop, spa, the ceramic studio, a cannery for our soups and sauces, citrus groves and a small experimental vineyard.
The Chalet Suzanne Soup Cannery has a fascinating history of its own. It was begun in 1956 by Carl Hinshaw Jr. in his garage. After over fifty years of production, his family recipes have found themselves in many unusual but noteworthy places. They have been served in the Governors’ mansions of all fifty states, at the World’s Fair, and aboard Trans World and Eastern Airlines international flights.
The Hinshaw family has always run Chalet Suzanne. Four generations have lived and worked on the property. As you walk around you'll probably see one of us, though all employees are like family here. We are all dedicated to the tradition of excellence that has been our heritage, as it continues to be passed down through the generations. Improvements of the grounds, ever mindful of the Chalet Suzanne's historic nature, are always underway.
Today Chalet Suzanne is a Mobil 3 Star restaurant and has been selected by Uncle Ben’s Rice as one of the Top 10 Country Inns in the US. Chalet Suzanne has also been named to the Florida Trend Magazine’s Golden Spoon Award ‘Hall of Fame’. Best of all, though, Chalet Suzanne Soups were selected by NASA and the crew of Apollo 15, thanks to friend and Astronaut James B. Irwin, to be aboard their trip to the moon in 1973. The soups also went into space on Apollo 16 and even the Russians chose these fine soups for their joint dinner meeting in space on Apollo-Soyuz.
Romaine® is our signature soup and is served with every meal at the Chalet Suzanne restaurant. By request of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, it can also be found with a special label, Moon Soup®. Thirteen unique gourmet soups and three sauces were developed by Carl and can be found in the finest stores nationwide, with gift boxes available worldwide, shipped direct from our cannery.
If what you’ve read about our history is intriguing… if you agree that the Chalet Suzanne is someplace special… just try spending a little while with us. Let us pamper you for an evening or a week. Soon you’ll feel like one of the family. Then you, too, will become a part of our proud heritage!