March is International Women’s Month. It’s a perfect time to reflect on all of the wonderful strong women in our lives. While we should be celebrating women every day, March 8th is a particularly special day and has been named International Women’s Day. Even though the gap is decreasing, men tend to be dominating kitchens in restaurants. We've eaten our fair share of food in Miami, and can attest to the fact that there's some incredible dishes coming from our female chefs. That's why we are taking a moment to celebrate some of our favorite kick ass women in Miami’s culinary scene.
We sat down with a few well-known women who are heating things up in kitchens all over the city to ask them a few questions about being a female in the industry.
Stephanie is the owner of Kendall's beloved Sweetness Bakeshop. After graduating with a business degree from Florida International University, she decided it was time for her stay-at-home mom to make cakes for more than just their family and friends. The business blossomed into a full family affair. The family owned cupcake shop is Miami's go to spot for all things sweet.
If you've followed the fresh food scene at all over the last ten years or so, then you've probably run into Nicole. She's been all over some of Miami's top kitchens and these days she's found her home at The Wynwood Yard overseeing culinary operations and research and development for Charcoal.
Here’s what they had to say:
What female chefs inspire you?
Soraya Kilgore: That's easy! Dominique Crenn!
Sasha Ariel: Bad ass ladies that take charge, are focused, and have the chutzpah to run their businesses and never look back.
One of my biggest chef crushes is Chef Melissa Kelly - two time James Beard Award winner whom has an amazing restaurant in Rockland, Maine on a farm where she grows a huge portion of her own produce and even raises her own pigs and chickens. I worked at her Orlando outpost of Primo, and it was an amazing experience but what she does in Maine is really magical, and definitely #goals. She is extremely hunble and truly an inspiration.
I have a huge passion for Middle Eastern cuisine so I’m really inspired these days by women like Einat Admony from Taim, who for me has really been one of the first female chefs to bring the voice Israeli food to the US before it was trendy. Also Adeena Sussman who is working on her Israeli cookbook and has taken her project head-on by living in Tel Aviv to do so. One day I’ll find the courage to pack up and move to Israel!
South Florida is also full of inspiring ladies! Chef Lindsay Autry who’s a huge part of why I’m down in Miami. She now has a gorgeous southern inspired spot in West Palm and is really kicking ass. Also gals like my bestie Chef Val Chang, the dynamic pastry duo Dallas Wynn & Devon Braddock. And Indira Patal, mother of Shivani Patel (Co-Owner of Ghee Indian Kitchen). "Mom" as all the cooks call her, who along with Chef Niven is the extraordinary voice behind their kitchens, she's working side by side their cooks teaching them the traditional recipes from India! It’s so hard to name them all the inspiring ladies but It fills my soul knowing we are forming this group down here that we can really support each other and create something super special together.
Stephanie Diaz: Joanne Chang (Flour Bakery), Christina Tosi (Milk Bar), Rebecca Masson (Fluff Bake Bar), and Jeni Britton Bauer (Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream)
Nicole Votano: One of my greatest inspirations, female or not, is Nancy Silverton. Her food is so simple, and respectful of tradition, while also being truly seasonal and always showcasing the work of her local farmers and artisans. I would eat ANYTHING she touches.
What’s the biggest challenge being a woman in the industry?
Soraya Kilgore: I think the biggest challenge has always been to be looked at as equals. I think women are always looked at in a way that we deserve less than men, even though we are doing the job that men do and sometimes more. So equal pay and respect have been things I've had to be aggressive about.
Sasha Ariel: Finding your voice and never letting anyone silence it. Our ideas are constantly get brushed under the rug or reprimanded because we come off too “demanding” or “pushy” when, really they just come from a place of passion. At the same time a male may be seen as strong and wise. Unfortunately, it’s a game that has been too normalize and we have to watch our every move for our voices to be heard, hopefully one day we won’t have to be so calculated and walk on eggshells and we can all be accountable for our actions and work together on effective leadership and communication.
Stephanie Diaz: Breaking barriers when it comes to the way we and our work as women chefs is perceived.
Nicole Votano: For me, the greatest challenge of being a woman in this industry is work life balance. I have two amazing children who are 6 and 9, and I feel like I am constantly shuttling them to events, markets, food stores, and our restaurants with me. But at the end of the day, although it feels hectic, I am happy to attack this challenge, as it shows them that if you are truly passionate and love what you do, your work can become a very positive part of every aspect of your life. Case in point, my daughter Gabriella makes "gourmet lunchables' out of artisan cheeses and small batch salamis for lunch everyday. That really makes me smile.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Soraya Kilgore: Definitely opening MadLab Creamery! I feel like I did it on my own. I look at it and everything in this shop is mine and it's great and makes me feel empowered to say, hey I opened my own business. You still need help, just like anyone else — it feels good to have done it mostly on my own!
Sasha Ariel: I’m really proud of my time spent at 27 Restaurant & Bar and The Broken Shaker. I left my position as Executive Chef at Zak The Baker (where I opened the original ZTB cafe, another huge accomplishment in my life) to work for the Bar Lab team as a line cook. My instincts told me the project was special. Getting promoted to Sous Chef was a huge learning experience. I really found my voice in terms of my cooking style, but I also learned how to foster a team and build genuine relationships with staff, and how incredible important it is to create a family environment with your coworkers in this business. As a leader they need to count on you, look to you for guidance, and you need to be open and learn from them as well. I think Chef Jimmy Lebron and I working together really set the tone for what that restaurant will forever be.
Stephanie Diaz: Still being in business! When we opened 8 years ago, I never imagined still doing this, fads come and go, but we’ve been able to evolve from being a “cupcake shop” to a full fledged dessert shop.
Nicole Votano: I am most proud of the amazing cooks and chefs that come out of the kitchens I have run, both women and men. I have two amazing young women working for me right now who started working for me as prep and garde manger cooks two years ago at DIRT. Now they are running different departments at Charcoal and Yard Hospitality Group. I am so proud of all that they have accomplished, and am glad I get to be a part of it. Being able to see people grow and be a part of their journey is a privilege and absolutely the most rewarding part of what I do. As females in the industry it is our duty to encourage this next, much larger, generation of female chefs in any ways we can.
In the next 5 years do you think we will find more women in the kitchen?
Soraya Kilgore: Absolutely. I think women are finding ways to make themselves a big part of the culinary world and are finally not afraid to push those boundaries and be who they are.
Sasha Ariel: I do think we will find more woman in the kitchen! But I also hope we will find more woman feeling empowered all around! Female farmers like Tiffany & Muriel from Little River Coop are just as, if not more important, to the food movement than a chef! I hope all women find the space to follow their passions without any restrictions!
Stephanie Diaz: I think we’ve finally broken into “The Boys-Club.” Women are changing the culture of the restaurant & hospitality industry and it's only going to continue.
Nicole Votano: Without a doubt, we will see a much higher percentage of women in the kitchen in the next five years. I have been seeing the numbers grow rapidly since my career started. A perfect example of this is that, every year when I go to the Women Chefs and Restauranteurs conference, there is a larger and larger group of of us attending. Not only women who work in the kitchen, but, women who manage or own restaurants, bartenders, somelliers, farmers, and so many more people who are helping reshape this formerly male dominated industry. The more we all speak out about it the more young women will join us in years to come.
What's one piece of advice for young women who want to be in the kitchen and are trying to find their way?
Soraya Kilgore: I think my best piece of advice for women would be to just do yourself and don't apologize. Be completely unapologetic for being who you are and being a badass.
Sasha Ariel: Get really connected to food, go work on a farm, go milk a goat, learn about the Earth, experience how these ingredient get to the kitchen. When I did all of those things it completely changed my appreciation for cooking and opened my mind for the better.
Stephanie Diaz: Be confident in yourself, don’t take crap, and command respect.
Nicole Votano: The two things I would say are, be patient and open to learning, I try to learn something from whomever is willing teach me. I'm very fortunate to be working with a very inspiring group of people who love to teach. As a young chef, this can be difficult. You are so eager to know it all, and create your own dishes, and 'be in charge', that it is easy to get caught up and forget how important it is to refine your palate and hone your craft before taking a management role.
The other thing I would say is to not take constructive criticism personally. Our job as chefs is to feed people what THEY will enjoy eating, it is about the guests who are eating your food, whether its your boss, a customer, or the manager of the restaurant, they are not saying it to upset you. Cooking for people is so personal that it can feel like a personal dig when someone tells you a dish has too much acid, or not enough herbs, or THE WORST... they just don't like it at all. If you can see these comments as opportunities to grow, then the sky is the limit in what you will be able to accomplish in your career. (I'm always trying to practice this one myself)
Want more Women's Day celebrating? Stop by The Miami Beach EDITION's International Women's Day celebration taking place tonight from 6 to 8pm.
The Miami Beach EDITION will be hosting a panel featuring some familiar leading ladies in Miami's hospitality industry at Matador Bar.
The event, Leading Ladies in Hospitality will feature a panel of three unique, dynamic women who are making an impact on Miami’s local food, beverage and nightlife scene. Taking place in the glamorous Matador Bar, Chef Soraya Kilgore of Alter/MadLab Creamery, Teresa Cesario of Absolut Elyx and DJ Lauren “Lolo” Reskin of Sweat Records will discuss how they strive to empower women in the workforce and their various experiences in their industries, moderated by EDITION’s very own Chelsea Olson.
Immediately following the female-powered panel will be a cocktail reception in Matador Bar featuring cocktails by Absolut Elyx, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting The Women’s Fund of Miami-Dade. Guests will enjoy a live performance by Miami’s own Yoli Mayor, America’s Got Talent contestant, as they network for a good cause.
Join Kombrewcha to celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month!
Throughout the month of March, the world’s first hard kombucha will celebrate female entrepreneurs by partnering with women owned and operated bars and restaurants in New York and Miami to raise awareness for gender equality.
“As a women working in a male dominated industry, sometimes the level of gender bias and discrimination can be palpable,” says Marketing Director, Kristina Marino. “As we head in to International Women's Day and Women’s History Month, I invite you to join me in supporting female small business owners in the fight for gender equality.”
Since purple is the official color of International Women’s Day, Kombrewcha will be highlighting their popular purple brew, Royal Ginger Kombrewcha, all month long. With every Royal Ginger bottle, cocktail or draft sold at select Miami and New York venues - including The Wynwood Yard, Root & Bone, Charcoal Garden Bar + Grill, Meadowsweet, 1 Hotel South Beach and The Standard Spa, Miami Beach to name a few - Kombrewcha will donate $1 to CATALYST, the official nonprofit partner for International Women’s Day worldwide. Additionally, CATALYST also helps build better workplaces for women by partnering with companies, diagnosing their barriers, and building inclusive cultures in their work environment.
An invite-only Badass Business Ladies of Miami dinner at Charcoal Garden Bar + Grill kicked-off Kombrewcha’s celebration of International Women’s Day this past Thursday, March 1. Kombrewcha will continue to celebrate and raise awareness on March 8, 2018, when they invite Miami’s badass business ladies, entrepreneurs and South Florida locals to The Wynwood Yard for a unique evening of food and drinks. The event will also feature various female-empowerment workshops, such as custom nail art with Rose B. Nails, a mini Stitch & Bitch class hosted by clothing designer, KREL, and an exclusive workshop with AWOM Club where attendees will customize their own WOMAN hat with female empowerment pins. Fun AF giveaways and goodies will be provided throughout the evening as well.
WHEN: Thursday, March 8, 2018, 7-9PM. International Women’s Day consumer event, complete with tasty food, cocktails, workshops and goodies.
To learn more about Kombrewcha’s International Women’s Day Campaign, please visit www.kombrewcha.com/iwd. To find a Kombrewcha near you, please visit www.kombrewcha.com or check out @kombrewcha on Instagram.
We hope to see you there!