The food industry, for some unexplainable reason, has always been a bit of a male driven industry. If you look across the country at the top chefs in executive or management roles you will find that it is mostly a male industry. This shouldn’t be shocking, considering across the board every business industry becomes majority male at the top, but for some reason it is.
It is shocking in part because traditional households saw women doing most of the household cooking. In fact talk to any chef worth their weight about what inspired them to begin cooking, and you will often hear a story about a mom or a grandmother that took the time to teach them to cook. Many recipes that your favorite restaurants in town use are driven from these experiences, adapted from the sauce pans of grandmothers sometimes many generations back.
To me however it is shocking because of my own upbringing. I grew up mostly to a single mother who quickly dissolved traditional gender roles for me. She would work sometimes three jobs to keep food on our table growing up. This meant that by and large many of the household roles fell to me. At an early age I learned to cook, mostly because I wanted something to eat and frozen dinners were simply not good. In the world of my youth you did what needed to be done, male/female/or other. In a world without gender roles (theoretically) every opportunity was equal. It was a rude awakening when I realized that this was simply not the case in the real world. That women could work three times as hard and still only get half the recognition and opportunities as men.
When I started Rock City Eats I wanted to make sure that even in a male dominated industry we try to include a heavy rotation of strong female personalities in the work we do. Both for women who have fought the odds and beat them, and some for women who are just starting the journey to try to make their fight a little easier by recognition.
Somewhere along the way I found other unnamed publications doing profiles on women and charging them or their businesses for being “honored” as a female who has succeeded. First off honoring someone and forcing them to pay for that honor is not an honor at all. It is an exploitation of someone who finally beat the odds. As someone who watched my mother work three jobs to get by, and knowing that many of these women who have succeeded have gone through similar stories of struggle, it is an honor for us as a publication just to be able to tell their story and be graced with their presence.
In 2015 we launched our Women in Food series as a result, in order to take a dedicated focus of finding amazing women in the food industry. We have always included women in our profiles, but we wanted to call out their roles in the food community more specifically. What we quickly found was that there are way more women doing amazing things in the food world than we could ever cover in a lifetime. We still have a ton of amazing people that we have not covered. Even more when we started our Rising Stars series, aimed at identifying upcoming talent, we found that well over half of our initial target list were women.
Women are as important to the food industry as anyone, maybe even more. On International Women’s Day, keep that in mind as you head out to eat or drink. Thankfully the industry is starting to show signs of change to where all have equal opportunity, but we need recognition, respect, and a sense of honor by being fed by amazing women in order to close that gap. Women’s day cannot just be a once a year thing, it needs to be something we recognize daily.
If you want to get to know more local women doing amazing things in the industry, here is a quick list of some of the profiles we have created over the years of women who are still active in the local food community.
- Joann Sims (Cache)
- Capi Peck (Trios)
- Darla Huie (Dizzy’s)
- Kathy Webb (Hunger Relief Alliance)
- Amy Bell (South on Main)
- Amanda Long (Speakeasy)
- Abbey Rolfe (Fold/Raduno)
- Amanda Ivy (1836)
- Alex Smith (Fold)
- Cetera Key (Souther Gourmasian)
- Nori Fryar (Zaffino’s)
- Kathy Jordan (Baja Grill)
- Tovya Prince (Rebel Kettle)
- Sara Harrington (Big Orange)
- Anne Wood (Forty Two)
- Christy Milligan (Cupcakes on Kavanaugh)
- April & Kristi Williams (Brown Sugar Bake Shop)
- Ciceley McDowell (Ceci’s Chicken and Waffles)
- Liv Thompson (Raduno)
- Sammy Cyz (1836)