From Bayley Elenzweig
The three-part Yes Ma’am event, created by the John Besh Foundation and held on June 15, 2017, included a short, one-hour panel in the Rouses Culinary Innovation center. Yes Ma'am was developed as a way to get top female chefs together to discuss their paths to success and how to get more females in culinary industries. The all-female panel included:
- Kelly Fields, of Willa Jean
- Traci Des Jardins, of Jardiniere
- Cassidee Dabney, of Blackberry Farm’s Barn
- Kristen Kish, of 36 Hours and Top Chef fame
- Nina Compton, of Compere Lapin and Top Chef fame
- Sarah Tibbetts, Corporate Pastry Chef of Valrhona Chocolates
Lisa Donovan, a well-known pastry chef who is based in Nashville, TN, led the panel.
Over the course of the panel, these amazing chefs discussed pivotal points in their careers and relationships with mentor chefs, concerns regarding the restaurant industry, fear regarding steps in their careers, their opinions about being a female in the kitchen and the best way to foster women in the industry, as well as some sillier topics. This panel allowed some insight into the mindsets and the careers of the chefs featured in the Yes Ma’am event.
One reoccurring topic during this panel was the changing landscape of the restaurant industry. Traci Des Jardins, a seasoned restaurateur, discussed her concerns as a ground-breaking number of restaurants open, while Kristen Kirsh discussed her own decision to pause opening a restaurant after her Top Chef win in order to pursue other opportunities. Another topic, which proved especially insightful, led to each of the chefs discussing the remarkable chefs that fostered them. Kelly led this discussion by explaining how John Besh hired her after just a handshake, while Nina discussed her introduction to new skills and flavors that have molded her career.
Following the panel was the Yes Ma’am dinner, held at Pigeon and Prince, for which each chef offered a course. Lastly, once the dinner concluded, guests made their way to Willa Jean for the after party, which concluded well after midnight. The whole event was amazing to see, and featured beautiful food, talented role models, and enthusiastic participants. There was some talk of making the event a yearly tradition, which will continue to call attention to the amazing talent and multiple heritages featured.
Photos courtesy of the John Besh Foundation