On Sunday, March 30th, in Manhattan, Cherry Bombe magazine’s Kerry Diamond and Claudia Wu hosted the first Cherry Bombe Jubilee, a conference in celebration of women in the world of food. Sponsored in part by OpenTable and attended by hundreds of up and comers and established names (Hello, Alice Waters!) in the culinary realm, it was a day of learning, discussion, networking, and, of course, food. Later that evening, OpenTable hosted an after-party at Corkbuzz Wine Studio. Featuring wines curated by owner Laura Maniec, Jordan Salacityo, Beverage Director at Momofuku restaurants, Pascaline Lepeltier, Wine Director at Rouge Tomate, and Juliette Pope, Wine Director at Gramercy Tavern, the after party also featured sweet and savory treats. You can check out exclusive photos from the evening’s festivities below.
Throughout the Jubilee, some of the food world’s best and brightest weighed in on a number of topics, including:
* Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar (and inventor of the famed crack pie), spoke about being the change. “We get to choose how we exist in this industry.” She urged attendees, “Be the individual. Individuality is priceless.” She also encouraged women to “make room for someone else to come in” to your kitchen, your business, and the industry.
* Dorothy Cann Hamilton, founder of the French Culinary Institute (my alma mater!), pointed out that although there’s a perception that there are more men in the culinary field, the percentage of women attending culinary school was 59% in 2012 (up from 31% in 1992) as compared to just 41% male students. Her hypothesis as to why we aren’t seeing more female chefs dominating restaurant kitchens is that women are seeking out more entrepreneurial ventures after graduating.
* Chefs April Bloomfield (The Spotted Pig), Katie Button (Cúrate), Anita Lo (Annisa), and Sarah Kramer were on a panel called “Getting Your Clog in the Door.” They all agreed that doing a stage/internship is an important first step. Kramer said, “Doing a stage is a great way to get your foot in the door at a restaurant if you want to work there.” And, it worked for Kramer; she wound up staging and, later, working at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Beyond a stage, Lo advised, “Go work at the best restaurant you can find.” She started her career at Bouley and hasn’t missed a beat since. For those newbies not living in a major culinary city, there are still plenty of opportunities. Bloomfield pointed out, “No matter where you start, it will expose you and lead you to other places.” For those unable to get into the kitchen of their dreams, Button recommends starting in the front of the house to get to the back of the house. She employed that strategy successfully at both El Bulli and José Andrés’s restaurants.
* Makeup guru Bobbi Brown gave an inspiring talk about her career path and shared her five tips for success. “Do what you love, always tell the truth, go with your gut, keep it simple, and focus on the positive.” She also gave out a pretty cool freebie in our parting gift bag. Thanks, Bobbi.
* “Chefs and the Media: A Love Story?” featured Amanda Cohen of Dirt Candy, Top Chef Kristen Kish (formerly of Menton), former New York Times restaurant critic Mimi Sheraton, and Amanda Kludt, Editorial Director of Eater. Cohen, who feels that female journalists absolutely have a responsibility to write about women chefs, said, “Media makes your career now, which is a strange thing. I’m not sure I would have become a cook if I knew what I’d have to do,” referring to being present on Twitter, Instagram, and blogging. She also noted, “Media coverage impacts financing potential, so women tend to open smaller restaurants.” Kludt admitted that what’s new and exciting at restaurants is what is going to generate page views. She also said, “Men [who are chefs] foster relationships with journalists and hire PR firms, while women tend to think, ‘If I keep my head down, someone will notice me,’ and that’s not necessarily the case.” Kish admitted, “Winning Top Chef can help you get deals. Becoming famous on Twitter or getting hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram can get diners in your restaurant.”
* A panel on the challenges of motherhood and being a chef included Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune and Suzanne Goin of Lucques and Tavern. Goin readily pointed out, “It’s really hard. I’m always disappointing somebody. And, sometimes it’s my kids.” She shared a heart-wrenching remark one of her children made to the family’s nanny while his mother was at work: “Some people don’t have nannies; they have moms.” Even though there are challenges to having a family and a restaurant, Hamilton observed that a restaurant is a great dry run because both will face the same tasks, from budgeting and scolding to simply not having time for long-winded conversations. Having one’s own restaurant seems to be their best recommendation for meshing family life with kitchen life. Even with that, however, Hamilton admits, “You have to figure out a way to cram it all in, and you’re not doing anything perfectly. Give yourself permission to be good enough.”
* Other talks included a discussion of unconventional entrepreneurs, a lecture on food politics by Marion Nestle, a presentation by Alexis Miesen of Blue Marble on bringing ice cream and jobs to Rwanda and Haiti, a sneak peek at Laurie David‘s new film Fed Up, and a keynote conversation between Julia Turshen (It’s All Good) and the amazing Ruth Reichl, former editor of Gourmet and author of Garlic and Sapphires, among others.
OpenTable is thrilled to have been a part of this day and night of celebration of women in the world of food. To continue to celebrate and support your favorite female chefs and restaurateurs, visit http://www.opentable.com/celebratingwomen and make a reservation.