Stories / Beard House, Impact

International Women's Day at the Beard House

Women Chefs and Restaurateurs Incoming President Nina Curtis on Women and the Future of Food

Maggie Borden

March 08, 2018


Incoming WCR President Nina Curtis

This morning, six women chefs walked into the Beard House kitchen and met face-to-face for the first time. Hailing from across the U.S. to as far-flung as Berlin and Hong Kong, this motley crew is united by two common causes: the celebration of International Women’s Day, and the belief in the promise of vegan food, both of which serve as the inspiration for tonight's dinner at the Beard House.

Organized by Women Chefs and Restaurateurs (WCR), the prominent industry resource center and network for female chefs, tonight’s event is led by incoming WCR president Nina Curtis, along with Peggy Chan, Sophia Hoffmann, Makini Howell, Cara Mangini, and Carrie Summer, all of whom specialize in plant-based cuisine. At first glance, the link between vegan food and International Women’s Day may not seem obvious, but Curtis feels it takes merely a step back to see the broader connections: “Plant-based/vegan food is vibrant, colorful, and liberating. It is progressive and delicious, and I believe it pairs perfectly with International Women’s Day as we continue to move forward to provide diversity, inclusion, and advancement for women globally.”

Curtis points to the historical longevity of plant-based dishes, which pop up in cuisines across the world, and are reflected in the globetrotting menu of tonight’s dinner, listed in full below. As she says: “plant-based food is foundational”—a form of connective tissue stretching across a worldwide community, linking a legacy of female home cooks, authors, and chefs to the women today who are asserting their place in professional kitchens and questioning the rules and expectations society has around what’s on the menu, and who gets to cook it. 

While the Beard House has celebrated International Women’s Day in previous years, the recognition of the holiday this year seems particularly resonant. 2018 marks WCR’s twenty-fifth anniversary, and the organization’s mission has only grown more relevant, expanding beyond internal networking and resources for women to initiatives like this month’s RestaurantHER project, a collaboration between WCR, JBF, and delivery giant GrubHub to promote women-led restaurants and food businesses. 

For JBF’s director of House programming, Izabela Wojcik, having WCR curate the International Women’s Day dinner seemed only natural. “WCR took inspiration from the day’s theme to invite a powerful group of women who are fierce advocates for vegan cooking and plant-based eating. It's a fitting theme for 2018 as we look ahead at where key food, policy, and social issues meet deliciously on our plate,” she remarked. 

So it should come as no surprise that these women, who are used to defying expectations on their menus, would be more than ready to take on the stereotypes facing them in the kitchen. As Curtis says, “the time is ripe—it is a dynamic and exciting time to be a woman in the restaurant industry. The future is women, and we have been working diligently for this moment for decades.” 

Tonight, these six women will come together on the line in the Beard House kitchen, working in tandem to advance WCR’s mission: to magnify the collective voice of women in culinary industry, and to elevate the position and recognition of women in this diverse world of hospitality.


Hors d’Oeuvre

Chilled Carrot–Beet Borscht Shooters with Macadamia Nut Sour Crème and Amaranth Microgreens

Toasted Quinoa Cakes with Whipped Fava Bean Hummus, Dill Oil, and Onion Flowers

Mozzarella-Style Nut Cheese Cubes with Black Mission Figs, Basil, and Balsamic Reduction

Spicy Walnut–Lentil Lettuce Cups with Mango Salsa and Cilantro–Avocado Crème

Wente Vineyards Small Lot Brut 2015

J. Lohr Gesture RVG 2016


Ohio Rutabaga–Apple Cake with Sweet Potato–Ginger Hummus, Cabbage–Apple Slaw, Cider Vinaigrette, Microgreens, Arugula Oil, and Pickled Mustard Seeds

Domaine Bousquet Sauvignon Blanc 2017

Disguised Cauliflower with Roasted Garlic; Black Cumin Oil; Microgreens; German Potato, Beet, and Carrot Rainbow Fritter; Purple Cashew Sour Crème; Almond Ricotta, Mint, and Potato Kasnudel; Rapeseed Oil; and Red Bread Crumbs

Whitecliff Vineyards Reserve Riesling 2015

Vietnamese Yellow Curry with Char-Grilled Hedgehog Mushroom, Marinated Eggplant, Wilted Seasonal Greens, Turmeric–Lemongrass Curry Jam, and Brown Rice Cracker

Burgess Cellars Petite Sirah 2012

Pan-Seared Creole Tempeh with Toasted Quinoa, Collard Salad, and Turnip Purée

Fattoria Sardi Rosé 2015

Tonka Bean Pot-de-Crème with Crunchy Honeycomb

La Marchesa White Label Gavi 2016


Learn more about RestaurantHer, our collaboration with WCR and Grubhub in support of JBF Women’s Leadership Programs.

Learn more about JBF Women’s Leadership Programs.


Maggie Borden is associate editor at the James Beard Foundation. Find her on Instagram and Twitter.