Women Chefs Go the Extra Mile (editorâ€TMs note – incl. recipes) By Caroline Leland
In an industry thatâ€TMs long been dominated by men, Nashville is home to a remarkable number of female chefs and restaurateurs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than one-fifth of all executive chefs are women. The stats for Nashville specifically havenâ€TMt been studied, but a look around gives any ambitious young girl plenty of female role models in the food world. Local Table spoke with a few of these successful women, honing in on those who not only lead and succeed in their industrial kitchens but do so while supporting local producers and the local economy. Kristin Beringson | Silo
For Kristin Beringson, success is about quality. Itâ€TMs how she chooses her ingredients, and itâ€TMs the standard against which she measures her own work. “I use Nashville Grown for produce and let the ingredients speak for themselves,” she says. “I want to support small businesses. I think the quality is better.” Sheâ€TMs motivated by a keen awareness of the significance of her work. “I think feeding people, which is what weâ€TMre in the business to do as chefs, is one of the most intimate things that can happen. Nourishing their bodies. We as chefs canâ€TMt put anything in our food without being aware of what weâ€TMre giving.” And when it comes to nourishing a body, Beringson knows what sheâ€TMs talking about. “I have a baby on the way. Being a pregnant chef is hard. The physical demands of the job, something women chefs deal with that men donâ€TMt. Thatâ€TMs a unique challenge, but I just guess it makes us more badass.” However, Beringson doesnâ€TMt think women should approach the field any differently than a man would. Her advice to girls wanting to follow in her footsteps? “I would say just work hard, be the best, donâ€TMt put a label on yourself as a woman, just put that label on yourself as a cook. Donâ€TMt expect special treatment. If we want to make it in this male-driven industry, we need to present ourselves on the quality of our work.” Maneet Chauhan | Chauhan Ale & Masala House, Tànsuŏ Maneet Chauhan says the rock and roll attitude of Music City is what fostered women chefs like trailblazer Margot McCormack. Chauhan acknowledges the extra “rock star” effort it takes women to succeed professionally, especially in a male-dominated industry. “Early on, when youâ€TMre trying to start, you have to work harder for people to take you more seriously,” Chauhan says. “But from personal experience and from looking around, I think women are much more adapted to multitask. At home, my husband is always pulling my leg because I have my computer in front of me, Iâ€TMm on the phone, the TV is on, Iâ€TMm watching the kids, and dinner is on.” This multitasking superpower is one of the many skills that enable women chefs like Chauhan to achieve her level of success. Chauhan feels especially lucky to be living and working in Nashville, because not only is she seeking to support the local community here, but she also appreciates that this community supports her. “To me, what pushes me is my entire environment around me. The number of people who place their trust and faith in you, that they come and work for you. Thatâ€TMs what motivates me: to constantly show to people that things can be done, you just need to focus, have confidence in yourself, and you will reach your goals.” Vui Hunt | Vuiâ€TMs Kitchen
During her childhood in Vietnam, Vui Hunt learned the importance of personal relationships. “We were very close, always on top of one another,” she says, laughing. “My mom sold dry goods in the local market. I watched her work with people, learning how to trade and barter. In Vietnam, you address neighbors as aunt, uncle, brother, sister.” Huntâ€TMs work ethic also has its basis in her childhood. “I was always raised to work really hard, to pay attention to what other people are doing and to learn from them. To be great at what you do and never stop learning.”