Stories / Events

This Dinner Is All About Talent Outside the Restaurant

Six food and beverage professionals celebrate International Women's Day at the Beard House

Cara Hackett

March 04, 2020


Briana Cooper photo by Lanae Spruce
Chef Briana Cooper (photo: Lanae Spruce)

March 1 kicked off Women’s History Month, which means our annual International Women’s Day dinner at the Beard House is just around the corner. This year’s event will highlight the triumph and progress women have made throughout the culinary field and beyond. On Saturday, March 7, our “Talent Beyond Walls” themed dinner will showcase six food and beverage professionals whose work shines in and outside of restaurant kitchens.

For the fourth year running, JBF is partnering with Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, an organization that works to uplift, support, and educate women within the food and beverage profession.

For chef Brianna Cooper, it was “unreal” to be invited to cook at the Beard House. “Being in this space where you don’t see many Black women is mind-blowing,” she said. “It’s mind-blowing that I was given this opportunity.”

As Cooper prepares to create pan-seared barramundi with sugar snap peas, pancetta, XO sauce, and potato confit for the March 7 dinner, she hopes to use her platform and experiences to dispel negative stereotypes about queer, black chefs.

“There’s definitely a lot of challenges,” Cooper said as she reflected on microaggressions and sexist jokes made by former co-workers about her identity. Despite this, she’s made it part of her mission to help establish new pipelines for aspiring chefs who may have experienced similar hardships. After receiving the invitation for the Women’s Day dinner, Cooper made it a point to reach out to other women chefs of color to cook with her at the Beard House.

Lucky Michaels photo by Christian Ledan
Mixologist Lucky Michaels (photo: Christian Ledan)

Mixologist and trans-advocate Lucky Michaels saw the event as an opportunity to infuse a little history and education into her featured drinks for the dinner. Her “Captain Alice” cocktail features cold-brew coffee as a nod to Alice Foote MacDougall, one of the first women coffee entrepreneurs. Her other cocktail, “RyeT Flames Paper Plane,” is named after Felicia “Flames” Elizondo, a prominent figure from the 1966 Compton Cafeteria Riot.

Chef Mimi Weissenborn attributes her successful career in the food industry to being surrounded by strong women mentors. She’s “elated” to work alongside other esteemed women chefs Amy Freitag, Elizabeth Falkner, and Patti Jackson for the collaboration dinner.

Mimi Weissenborn photo by Clay Williams
Chef Mimi Weissenborn (photo: Clay Williams)

“With women, it’s always something really important and really powerful,” Weissenborn said. “I feel like I end up learning and taking away so much from the event.”

Weissenborn will prepare a celeriac–apple chowder with scallops, crispy potatoes, lardon, crème fraîche, chile oil, and chives.

“It’s women coming together, kicking ass, cooking good food, and just really having a good time,” Weissenborn said. “All of that just translates onto a plate.”

Learn more about the International Women’s Day: Talent Beyond Walls dinner.


Cara Hackett is the spring Gannett Editorial Fellow at the Beard Foundation. You can follow her at @cara_chronicles on Twitter or Instagram.