#LIKEABOSS: How the James Beard Foundation Is Leveling the Gender Playing Field

If you're a woman just starting out in the food industry, you should jump on these opportunities ASAP.
By Rachael Ray Every Day ,

Food for thought: Women need mentors. And nurturing relationships between females is important in any industry, but especially so for one that can be as bro-y as the food world.

But what do you do if there aren't other women high up on the food chain at your restaurant—or at least the kind who want to help you grow? 

For a handful of lucky, hardworking women, the James Beard Foundation is helping them take on this problem head-on. Through two unique programs—the Women in Culinary Leadership Program and the Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Program—the JBF is giving women in food the tools they need to thrive in the culinary world: advanced culinary business training, tools to manage work life and home life, and maybe most importantly, mentorship opportunities. 

2017 Women in Culinary Leadership (WCL) mentee Tanya Jimenez-Lee staging at the Taste of Seaside Florida dinner at the James Beard House on January 24, 2018, as part of the James Beard Foundation’s WCL mentee program. (Photo Credit: Clay Williams / Courtesy of the James Beard Foundation)

“The James Beard Foundation’s Women’s Leadership Programs seek to empower the next generation of culinary talent—from line cook to restaurant owner—to excel in their chosen field by offering the participants the skills and know-how necessary to achieve success,” said Clare Reichenbach, chief executive officer of the JBF in a press release.

The first program, the Women in Culinary Leadership Program (which launched in 2012), is a 9-month mentorship program that gives junior women accelerated training in either front-of-house or back-of-house work. And the mentors are some truly impressive culinary gurus: think Angie Mar of The Beatrice Inn in New York City, José Andrés of the Think Food Group, Ti Adelaide Martin of Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, and more.

Related: Try Angie Mar's take on "meat & potatoes": Bone-In Rib Eye with Blackberries, Garlic & Prawn Butter + Tartiflette

The other JBF program—Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Program hosted at Babson College—is a five-day entrepreneurship and leadership training program for female chefs and food business owners, covering a wide range of essential skills from advanced financial concerns to managing work-life balance.

So why are these programs so important right now? “Well before the Women’s March and the #MeToo movement that are shedding much needed light for women across all industries, we have been appalled by the structural limitations in the culinary industry for women and the abysmal paucity of women leaders in our field,” says Rohini Dey, Ph.D., owner of Vermilion in Chicago and co-founder of the JBF Women in Culinary Leadership program in a press release. “It is our conviction that only ownership and leadership will truly change the narrative, enabling women to shatter the gastro-ceiling and break out of their pink cages.

Applications are now open for both programs. You can apply here.

WATCH: Rachael Ray, Ali Cayne, Alex Baker and Kiki Cyrus talk all about the importance of mentorship on our #LIKEABOSS Facebook Live panel.

For more about women supporting women, check out our #LIKEABOSS March 2018 cover stories:

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