Could this be the start of real change for women in the culinary industry?
The James Beard Foundation announced that restaurateur Rohini Dey of restaurant Vermillion is launching the James Beard Foundation Vermilion Women in Culinary Scholarship at a Women in Culinary Leadership Dinner. She will also unveil the ongoing JBF Vermilion “Chefs for Women” Program at Vermilion (New York City & Chicago).
Super Chef spoke with JBF’s president Susan Ungaro to find out more.
Super Chef: How did the Vermillion event come about? Was Rohini Dey involved in JBF events previously? How long has this been in the works?
Susan Ungaro: Rohini Dey is a restaurateur. She has two restaurants – Vermillion in Chicago, and second in NYC. She runs an all-female restaurant. Her female chef was a judge on Chopped. In 2009, our JBF theme was to celebrate women in food. Every year there is a Chefs Night Out the night before the awards. She hosted that year at Vermillion in New York City. Rohini has a column in Chicago Sun Times, and she was interested in what could we do together to shine a spot light on women in culinary. There is a need to encourage more women in leadership roles in the culinary field. She offered to start a scholarship.
Super Chef: Can you tell me about the panel discussion and five-course Indian-Latin fusion dinner at Vermillion New York?
Susan Ungaro: Martha, Stewart, the International Culinary Center‘s Dorothy Hamilton, Lidia Bastianich, and Rohini Dey will join me for a panel discussion moderated Martha Teichner, CBS News Emmy Award and James Beard Award winner. The event is open to the public. We hope to raise awareness and consciousness about lack of women at the top of the culinary field.
Super Chef: Can you tell me more about the James Beard Foundation Vermilion Women in Culinary Scholarship? What will be offered and when and to whom? How large is the endowment? What does it hope to accomplish?
Susan Ungaro: We are still working out the details. But there will probably be $20,000 in scholarship money, and JBF usually awards $2,500 to $5,000. The purpose is to recognize women who are going to culinary school and most likely there will be some requirements. The scholarships will be for women with Indian or Latin backgrounds – Vermillion is a Latin-Indian restaurant, and some need-base and academic achievement criteria.
Super Chef: How does this new scholarship fit into JBF?
Susan Ungaro: James Beard was a big supporter of women, and Julia Child was important in establishing The James Beard Foundation. Women like Barbara Kafka, Gail Greene, and many others were in James Beard’s circle of friendship. He would applaud this, along with the theme in 2009. We want the culinary industry to be a place where women can achieve whatever they want.
I think what women in culinary are facing is no different from what they would face in the banking or automotive world. There is not as much encouragement, whether mentoring, or financial backing. There are more women making it to the top, more are being recognized by JBF. It is not about pointing a finger, It’s about opening doors, encouraging, and hearing inspiring stories. It is an opportunity to hear advice from women who have made it.
You can never say it enough: women hold up half the world. Why shouldn’t our daughters be encouraged to think big and bigger?
Super Chef: I know about Will JBF be working with Women Chefs & Restaurateurs to further women in leadership roles?
Susan Ungaro: I know WC&R’s Rochelle Huppin, and their prior president well, but this is JBF and Vermillion event. They will be sent invitations to it.