When growing up, Debbie Gold was the only person in her family who was passionate about food and cooking. The Chicago native, now 38, surprised her parents when, while still in high school, she subscribed to Bon Appétit and began whipping up impressive meals for the family. Such early endeavors paid off. She went on to study restaurant management at the University of Illinois, and then attended L'Ecole Hoteliere de Tain L'Hermitage.
After graduation, Debbie apprenticed at such Michelin-starred French restaurants as Michel Chabran, Albert LeCompt, Jean Marc Reynaud and Le Gourmandin. When she returned to Chicago in 1987, she got a job at the world-renowned Charlie Trotter's, where she met her future husband, Michael Smith. The couple returned to France in 1989, where they worked as executive chefs at L'Albion in Nice for two years. After moving back to Chicago with Michael in 1991, Debbie worked as pastry chef at Everest and then as executive chef at Mirador until 1994.