Susanna Foo was born in Inner Mongolia, China and raised in Taipei, Taiwan where she educated herself on the spices, grains, and produce indigenous to the region. Susanna came to the United States in 1967 not to pursue a career in the culinary arts, but to earn her M.A. degree in library science at the University of Pittsburgh. In 1979, Susanna and her husband, E-Hsin, moved to Philadelphia to join his family's restaurant business and opened the Foo's second family restaurant, Hu-Nan of Philadelphia.
Cooking has always been a family affair for Susanna. She learned Hunan style cooking from her mother-in-law, Wan-Chow Foo, and Chinese Northern-style pasta from her cousin, Chao Su. Susanna met her mentor and teacher, the late Jacob Rosenthal, founder of the Culinary Institute of America, while she was at Hu-Nan and learned French cooking from him. Rosenthal admired Susanna's unique cooking style and encouraged her to take a course at the CIA. In 1987, Susanna and E-Hsin opened their own restaurant, Susanna Foo Chinese Cuisine, and made their dream and philosophy of cooking a reality.