Women in Culinary Leadership (WCL) is an accelerated, learning-by-doing mentorship program.

To learn more about this year's program and application process, click here.

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. The goal of this program is to provide women the opportunity to enhance their leadership skills so they can become executive chefs and/or restaurateurs. It is our hope to help improve the experiences of women in our industry at large. Women in the WCL program learn about, and experience firsthand, the multiple moving parts and people that are instrumental to running a successful restaurant.

Women in Culinary Leadership was launched in 2012 by Rohini Dey, Ph.D., James Beard Foundation Trustee and Vermilion Restaurateur. Since its inception, 46 mentees have completed the program under the guidance of 28 mentors. Many of the mentors have described the program as equally rewarding to them, returning to participate year after year.

For those interested in learning about other James Beard Foundation Women in Leadership programs, sign up for our email list


  • “The beautiful advantage of this program is getting to see all the different elements of front-of-house management first hand, on a daily basis. The bond of the other women in the WCL program… we are all in the same boat and learning curve. Talking with one another has helped us get through some tough days.” —Jennifer Thomas, 2015-16 Mentee, BOKA, Chicago
  • “Let me get this straight: the Beard House curates a group of promising young female industry talent with a passion for our industry and then [enables] them to come do an intensive internship with us? I wish all my decisions were this easy…” —Ti Adelaide Martin, 2016-18 Owner and Mentor, Commander’s Palace, New Orleans
  • "I can't say enough about this program. I really never thought I would be able to do what I'm doing today. Besides the technical skills, there's really nothing more valuable than having more confidence in yourself. I think all of the women across the program, even though we're all in different programs, we can all relate to that. The confidence this program has the power to instill in you is really going to project you into your future in this industry." —Delilah-Amanda Lynn, 2014-15 Mentee, Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants, Chicago

Check out our past WCL recipients. And take a look at the 2018 WCL Mentors.



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 impact program manager Emily Rothkrug at erothkrug@jamesbeard.org.

Women in Culinary Leadership was launched in 2012 by Rohini Dey, Ph.D., James Beard Foundation Trustee and Vermilion Restaurateur.