The james Beard Foundation's Women in Culinary Leadership Program

From left to right: Michael White, Gail Simmons, Dana Cowin, Emily Luchetti, Rohini Dey, 2013 WICL grantee Eliza Martin, JBF president Susan Ungaro, and Kristen Kish

Women in Culinary Leadership is an accelerated, learning-by-doing mentorship program. Offered under the auspices of the James Beard Foundation, WCL gives women with a background in hospitality or the culinary arts and at least two years of relevant work experience a chance to work with top industry leaders and build in-depth skills in the kitchen or in restaurant management and hospitality.

The James Beard Foundation is committed to correcting the gender imbalance in the restaurant/culinary industry by cultivating, training, and supporting women throughout their professional careers. 

See our 2017 WCL recipients and find out which industry leaders they were paired with.

For those interested in learning about other James Beard Foundation Women in Leadership programs, sign up for our email list. You’ll receive updates about application deadlines, events, and other program news. 


Background and History

Women in Culinary Leadership is an educational program focused on mentoring and training women aspiring to careers in the culinary industry. Conceived by JBF trustee and restaurateur Rohini Dey, the program launched in 2012.

WCL began with a panel discussion about gender imbalance in the food industry, held at Dey's Vermilion restaurant in fall of 2012. Moderated by Emmy and James Beard Award winner Martha Teichner of CBS News, the panel featured Martha Stewart; chef and author Lidia Bastianich; the late founder and CEO of the French Culinary Institute, Dorothy Cann Hamilton; Ms. Dey; and Ms. Ungaro.

The 2012 WCL program also included the inaugural Women in Culinary Leadership Cookoff, held at Vermilion. Eight entrants submitted a resume, essay, and recipe for one contemporary Indian–Latin dish, which was prepared on-site for a panel of culinary professionals. Read more about the WICL cookoff.

Since its inception, 27 mentees have taken part in the program under the guidance of 23 mentors. Many of the mentors have described the program as equally rewarding to them, returning to participate year after year.

Check out our past WCL recipients:

And take a look at all of our WCL Mentors to date.




Open for Business/OpenTable

Open for Business/OpenTable


Miami New Times

Restaurant Hospitality

Philadelphia Business Journal

Phoenix Business Journal

JBF's Profile of Women in Culinary Leadership Grantee Eliza Martin 

The Wall Street Journal  

Super Chef 

The Village Voice  



For more information about the Women in Culinary Leadership Program​, please email Shelley Menaged.   

Photos by Ken Goodman.