Three chefs-turned-restaurateurs, an award-winning bartender, a food blogger-cum-cookbook author, and a director of a cooking program for low-income women may come from all ends of the United States, working in different facets of the industry, but they joined our Open Kitchen, Open Conversation at the famed Hotel Saint Cecilia in Austin, Texas, by one common thread: being a woman in the food business.
Being a Bartender is More Than Just Being Cute
When Julia Momose applied for a bartending job back in college, the bar manager told her they didn’t like to hire college girls because all they cared about was looking cute. Julia quickly proved them wrong. Now, she’s about to open her own Chicago-based bar, Kumiko. “There’s a great opportunity now for more women-run businesses. More so than before, we’re being recognized for our work and being given the opportunities that we haven’t had in the past,” the award-winning bartender and soon-to-be business owner says.
The Importance of Mentoring Others
Callie Speer, owner of the punk rock-inspired diner, Holy Roller, in Austin, Texas, dishes out another perhaps unexpected way that women can expand in this business. “I think the biggest opportunity for women in the industry right now is having the ability to step up and really be teachers and mentors,” she says.
Creating Opportunities For Those Less Connected
Leticia Landa, Deputy Director at La Cocina in San Francisco, is helping firsthand to create opportunities for women seeking to start up their own food businesses. “The more that women get into positions of ownership and are able to kind of spread that love, and to connect with other women who haven’t had a chance, that network is going to grow, making for a much more delicious and vibrant food industry — and world,” the Texas native says.
A Bit of Luck and a Lot of Work
After the bison tartare and summer garden cucumber and chile gazpacho has been passed around, Chef Alexandra Gates at Cochineal in Marfa, Texas, presents her Texas Akaushi beef brisket, which she sous-vided for 72 hours and then finished on the grill. Once the ooohs and ahhhs have subsided, Esther Choi pipes up about her proudest career moment of beating out hundreds of competing applicants to capture the coveted restaurant space at Chelsea Market in Brooklyn, expressing that it was a combination of luck and “really, really, really hard work.”
Why to Avoid Shortcuts
Her advice for new chefs just starting out? “Don’t take shortcuts, because you can taste it. You’ll be able to taste every single thing. Even though you have to, do it the long and hard way, because that’s how much love you’re putting into every dish,” the chef and owner of New York City-based mokbar says.
How Social Media’s Giving Women a Voice
And, while doing things the long and hard way is one way to success, Jerrelle Guy, cookbook author of Black Girl Baking and blogger of Chocolate for Basil, credits the power of social media for giving women a voice. “We’re able to reach out to other women and network so easily,” she says, adding, “whereas before, we didn’t necessarily have this ability to see other women doing what we were doing and feeling inspired by them or getting help from them.”
The voices on social media are so much louder than in other landscapes, helping to shift perspectives, serving as a launching pad for new ways of thinking. “I think people are listening, people are hearing, people are talking and there are more conversations that are happening. And it diversifies the landscape, which I think is everything,” the author and blogger muses.
Watch the women talk about their inspirations and motivations here: