Conversation Series Open Kitchen Watch the Video Starlight and Starbright > Dragonfly > Bison Tartare with Fry Bread and Pickled Okra > Summer Garden Cucumber and Chile Gazpacho > Charred Nopalito and Corn Salad > Texas Stone-Ground Corn Bread > Sous Vide Brisket with Barbecue Sauce and Quick Pickles > French Toast Bread Pudding with Blackberry-Brandy Compote >

With women representing just 19% of chefs and 7% of head chefs and earning 28% less in base pay than male chefs, Williams Sonoma facilitated a gathering of six influential women in all aspects of the food industry for a conversation about the issues facing women in food, and how we can move towards a change.

Three chefs-turned-restaurateurs, a award-winning bartender, a food blogger-cum-cookbook author, and a director of a cooking program for low-income women may come from all ends of the United States, working in different facets of the business, but they join this conversation by one common thread: a shared passion in pursuing a career in the food industry.

When Julia Momose applied for a bartending job back in college, the bar manager told her they didn’t like to hire college girls because all they cared about was looking cute. Julia quickly proved them wrong. Now, she’s about to open her own Chicago-based bar, Kumiko. “There’s a great opportunity now for more women-run businesses. More so than before, we’re being recognized for our work and being given the opportunities that we haven’t had in the past,” the award-winning bartender and soon-to-be business owner says.

Callie Speer, owner of the punk rock-inspired diner, Holy Roller, in Austin, Texas, dishes out another perhaps unexpected way that women can expand in this business. “I think the biggest opportunity for women in the industry right now is having the ability to step up and really be teachers and mentors,” she says.

Leticia Landa, Deputy Director at La Cocina in San Francisco, is helping firsthand to create opportunities for women seeking to start up their own food businesses. “The more that women get into positions of ownership and are able to kind of spread that love, and to connect with other women who haven’t had a chance, that network is going to grow, making for a much more delicious and vibrant food industry — and world,” the Texas native says.

After the bison tartare and summer garden cucumber and chile gazpacho has been passed around, Chef Alexandra Gates presents her Texas Akaushi beef brisket, which she sous-vided for 72 hours and then finished on the grill. Once the ooohs and ahhhs have subsided, Esther Choi pipes up about her proudest career moment of beating out hundreds of competing applicants to capture the coveted restaurant space at Chelsea Market in Brooklyn, expressing that it was a combination of luck and “really, really, really hard work.”

Her advice for new chefs just starting out? “Don’t take shortcuts, because you can taste it. You’ll be able to taste every single thing. Even though you have to, do it the long and hard way, because that’s how much love you’re putting into every dish,” the chef and owner of New York City-based mokbar says.

And, while doing things the long and hard way is one way to success, Jerrelle Guy, cookbook author of Black Girl Bakes and blogger of Chocolate for Basil, credits the power of social media for giving women a voice. “We’re able to reach out to other women and network so easily,” she says, adding, “whereas before, we didn’t necessarily have this ability to see other women doing what we were doing and feeling inspired by them or getting help from them.”

The voices on social media are so much louder than in other landscapes, helping to shift perspectives, serving as a launching pad for new ways of thinking. “I think people are listening, people are hearing, people are talking and there are more conversations that are happening. And it diversifies the landscape, which I think is everything,” the author and blogger muses.

Meet the Women

Meet some of the women who are helping to re-define the food industry.

“I always try to teach my female staff to be confident. Embrace your confidence.”

Esther Choi
Chef and Owner of mokbar
in New York City

“The network of women is going to grow making for a much more delicious and vibrant and wonderful food industry — and world.”

Leticia Landa
Deputy Director of La Cocina
in San Francisco

“Women are very
resourceful. We know
how to take something
small and make so
much out of it.”

Jerrelle Guy
Author of Black Girl Baking
and Blogger for
Chocolate for Basil

“The biggest opportunity
for women in the industry
right now is having the
ability to step up and be
teachers and mentors to
one another.”

Callie Speer
Chef and Owner of Holy Roller
in Austin, Texas

“Gender doesn’t define
my capabilities, nor
does it define how
passionate I am.”

Julia Momose
Bartender & Food & Wine’s
Best New Mixologist

“Women can
accomplish anything
as long as they work
hard and they support
one another.”

Alexandra Gates
Chef and Owner of
Cochineal in Marfa, Texas

Read Their Stories on the Blog >

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