An industry that has been vilified recently for the sexual misconduct of some of its most prominent chefs and restaurateurs started to redeem itself last week. While white males typically dominate the equivalent of the “Oscars for the food world,” nine of the 15 honorees recognized by the James Beard Foundation with major awards were women. Additionally, about half the nominees were women.
Whether the recognition was related to the power of the #MeToo movement or a response to the 2018 James Beard Awards theme of “Rise,” the industry stepped up to honor female chefs and restaurateurs. These are the women who rose to the top:
Gabriel Hamilton, Outstanding Chef; Prune
Dolester Miles, Outstanding Pastry Chef; Highlands Bar & Grill
Caroline Styne, Outstanding Restaurateur; The Lucques Group
Belinda Leong, Outstanding Baker; B. Patisserie
Nina Compton, Best Chef: South; Compere Lapin
Dominque Crenn, Best Chef: West; Atelier Crenn
Karen Akunowicz (pictured), Best Chef: Northeast; Myers + Chang
Missy Robbins, Best Chef: New York City; Lilia
Camille Cogswell, Rising Star Chef of the Year; Zahav
Photo credit: Huge Galdones
1. The power of recognition
Recognition gives these women and others the power to improve the culture for the next generation of female chefs. Rohini Day, restaurateur with Vermilion in Chicago and creator of the JBF Women in Culinary Leadership Program, summed it up from the awards stage: “We’re moving around the minefield of harassment and creating a culture of change … bringing an end to the gastro ceiling.”
Others sounded off with inspirational and aspirational messages during the awards presentation and a female chefs’ panel geared to culinary students held at Chicago’s Kendall College the day prior to the awards.
Photo credit: Kent Miller
5. Hard-earned respect
“It took me a long time to get where I am now. Critics didn’t place as much value on my food [compared to my male counterparts] and I couldn’t attain the same financial position. But recognition [as a 2018 James Beard nominee] garners respect. —Amanda Cohen, Dirt Candy
Photo credit: Francis Son
7. Create culture
“As a chef, it’s my responsibility to create a positive environment in my restaurant, making it comfortable for everyone to work there.”—Nina Compton, Compere Lapin
Photo credit: Francis Son
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