The James Beard Foundation Awards 21 Aspiring Restaurant Professionals the 2016 Women in Culinary Leadership Grant

Although 50% of restaurant owners are women (according to the National Restaurant Association,) women are still the minority in restaurant kitchens. Female chefs are much harder to come by.

With that in mind, the James Beard Foundation (JBF) is helping women advance in the culinary industry with a mentor/grantee program. 21 women have been selected to participate and were given the 2016 Women in Culinary Leadership Grant.  

“We created this program to help accelerate women’s careers in the culinary industry, specifically by building their skills both in the kitchen and in front-of-house management,” said Rohini Dey, owner and founder of the Indian-Latin restaurants Vermilion in New York City and Chicago in a press release. “This year 18 mentors will guide the JBF Women in Culinary Leadership grantees through rigorous programs that will include business training in kitchen, floor management, marketing, and entrepreneurship. By staying actively involved in our grantees development trajectory during the training and beyond, our goal is to enable women to break through the gastro-ceiling.”

Led by both Rohini Dey and the JBF’s president, Susan Ungaro, the Women in Culinary Leadership (WICL) program was founded in 2012. The goal of the mentoring program is to help up and coming, aspiring chefs and restaurateurs in the industry succeed with the guidance from established culinary experts.

“We are delighted to see the tremendous growth our Women in Culinary Leadership Grant Program has achieved in just one year. Thanks to the generosity of the participating restaurateurs and chefs/owners, we’ve tripled the number of experiences offered,” said Susan Ungaro, president of the James Beard Foundation in a press release. “As these 21 talented women embark on our mentoring program, we look forward to helping them achieve their dreams of a successful career in the restaurant world.”

The Mentor List is Stacked 

Over 60 women applied for the program, but 21 of them were selected. The grantees will either complete a six or twelve-month program that will be focused on back and/or the front-of-house. They will also be able to work along guest chefs at the historic James Beard House for a week.

Some of the mentors participating are James Beard Award Winners including Cindy Pawlcyn of Napa’s Mustards Grill, Jennifer Jasinski of Denver’s Rioja, John Besh of Nola’s Besh, April Bloomfield of NYC’s Spotted Pig, and Linton Hopkins of Atlanta’s Restaurant Eugene. Even, Rohini Dey herself will be offering mentorship to one lucky aspiring restaurateur.

It will be interesting to see what the future will bring to these aspiring restaurant professionals.