In January 2018, along with the longtime general manager of 610 Magnolia, Lindsey Ofcacek, I am launching a non-profit initiative to empower young women chefs in Kentucky. It will offer mentorship and travel opportunities to 5 women chefs in Kentucky who will also be given the chance to cook a dinner at The James Beard Foundation.
We have been developing this non-profit initiative for the last year, but in light of the heartbreaking stories of sexual harassment in our industry, it became clear that we had to do more than just make a statement. I believe that, at its core, the restaurant industry is still a place of community, compassion and hospitality. And the future of our industry will rest upon the vital role of empowered women who will lead with strength, fairness and respect.
This initiative is NOT a solution to a complex and pervasive problem. This is simply an effort to do something positive. I am a male chef and I have benefited from the system, a system I did not create but nonetheless one that made my path an easier one to follow. It is time we create more paths for women in our industry.
I know that this is not my story to tell. I am thankful for the voices of women who have already spoken out, especially chefs like Amanda Cohen, Lisa Donovan, Katie Button, Ashley Christensen, Dominique Crenn, Asha Gomez, Jenn Louis, Tiffani Faison and many more. I am listening. I have chosen to launch this initiative in Kentucky, a place that is home and a place where women chefs such as Ouita Michel and Kathy Cary have been at the forefront of our culinary arts. I hope that this small but impactful initiative will help pave the way for more chefs like them.