I hadn't heard of Seattle-based chef Maria Hines, but she made a great
entrance. She was out cooking for the event and came running in to
accept her Best Chef: Northwest award in the nick of time. When she did
make it to the stage she thanked her wife for allowing her to put a
lien on the house to open the restaurant. It was adorable and showed
how truly hardworking chefs really are.
Jamie Leeds---the chef of Hank's Oyster Bar and Commonwealth Gastropub in Washington, D.C.---has three restaurants. She did it in five years. Women need to talk about money: how did you finance your restaurants? Leeds cashed out her 401k and mortgaged her house! Advice to the young: follow your dream even if you have to buy secondhand plates!
I asked 22 year-old CIA graduate Nicole whether it's still harder for women in the kitchen. She says women still have to work twice as hard. Her boss, Maria Hines of Tilth (who works for love and finances her own restaurant), tells women to stand their ground and become chefs!
And I'm very impressed by the huge screen. Huge as in
full-stage-Avery-Hall-giant. It means you can see every detail of the
presenters. The room is highlighted in pink (theme is women, after all)
and the spotlights are purple,casting the whole thing in a pastel
glaze. A delicious cotton candy presentation indeed.
Ted Allen says it is about time to pay homage to the under-represented other half.
B. Smith, defying the rainy gloom in a bright, pretty pink dress: "This is a long time coming. Long time coming. Women bring an extra somethin' somethin'. Men are great, we love men. But I think women bring something different, a certain style and a different kind of management. We've been in the kitchen for years so this is a great thing."
Signaling that it is time to sit or eat...let's go take a look.
It feels like a food-world mafia wedding out here under the portico. A bespectacled Alain Ducasse sneaks by the press table undetected. Emeril is chatting and taking photos with Traci Des Jardins. Gregarious Drew Nieporent stops by in a pale pink bow tie. So what about women in food? I ask. "Are you kidding me?" says Drew. "Leslie Revson, Deborah Ponzack, Traci Des Jardins, Patricia Williams, Claudia Fleming (way before Gramercy). It has nothing to do with gender--it has to do with talent and giving people opportunity. I think I've lead in that category." And the pink tie? "This is the only tie I've got that fits--nothing to do with gender there either."
Some might be surprised that this year's JBF Awards recognizes women in food considering women have long been associated with the kitchen. Julia Child is one of the most recognizable names in food, but it's important to keep in mind that her audience was post-war housewives eager to make their husbands happy with coq au vin and mousse au chocolat. Before 24/7 food television, celebrity chefs, and best-selling kitchen-tell-alls, men ruled the kitchen because cooking was considered a blue-collar profession for those with few other options—an unsuitable profession for a "lady." Hopefully, this year's awards ceremony represents a change in public opinion and in practice.
When asked what she thought about the fact that so many fewer females become chefs, Maria Hines from Tilth said, "I definitely hope this changes things. I think it's great that JBF hosts this event and gives us a chance to be in the spotlight." Jennifer Coco from Flat Iron Cafe sees the disparity in numbers between male and female chefs as inspiration. "I hope it doesn't change because people are always so surprised to see me! It gives me energy and motivates me!" Suzanne Tracht from Jar thinks the ratio of male to
Backstage at Avery Fisher Hall the Steinway pianos have been moved into hallways to make room for hot boxes and other catering equipment as the 28 female chefs take their positions on the promenade for the 19th annual JBF Awards gala. The Women in Food theme is evident in the bright pink table linens and the explosive bouquets of spring flowers. Between the chef stations, thirteen female mixologists from across the country are setting up their mixers and shakers. The press room is halfway set—with step and repeat in place. What's this? A Hendrick's Gin bar in the press room? Should make for interesting interviews. Countdown is 26 minutes to red carpet (tented, sadly, due to rain).