Nominate Women in the Restaurant Business

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Above: One of the female restaurateurs who have recently risen in prominence is Hannah Elliott (right) of Lola’s Fine Kitchen, pictured with her brother and partner, Taufeek Shah, and the inspiration behind their business – their mother, Carmelita Shah. 

By Wini Moranville

“Women hold nearly 60 percent of the jobs in the food-service industry, yet they don’t receive 60 percent of the recognition,” says Jessica Dunker, president and CEO of the Iowa Restaurant Association. “It’s time to stop, look around with a little more intentionality, and take notice of their contributions.”

To this end, the Association will select 40 Iowa women in the industry to feature in the summer print edition of the Food and Beverage Iowa Business Quarterly and offer expanded stories of the women on their website.

According to Dunker, a top reason women don’t get as much recognition as men in the industry is that the most visible restaurant roles are those of the chef owner/operator, and only about one-third of restaurants are majority-owned by women. 

“But that is changing.” says Dunker. “Between 2007 and 2012 [the most current figures available], the number of majority-women-owned restaurants jumped 40 percent.”

The association’s initiative has made me think of some of the women I’ve appreciated in the industry during the past decade. Sarah Prichard is a hands-on co-owner (with husband Lynn Pritchard) of Table 128, arguably our city’s best fine-dining venue. Sara Hill is an equally hands-on co-owner (with husband David Baruthio) of Baru 66, which shook up the gastronomy scene when it opened in 2010. Christina Moffatt blazed a trail with Crème Cupcake and Dessert Lounge, that innovative mash-up of bar and bakery.

Just in the past year or so, chef Cidalia Tamaz has shown diners a refined-rustic side of Mexican on Friday and Saturday nights in the upstairs loft at Lucca. Hannah Elliot has regaled us with Pakistani-Filipino fusion cuisine at Lola’s Fine Kitchen, which she owns with her brother Taufeek Shah in Ankeny. And Cherry Madole and Susan Madorsky have elevated lunch with the new-this-year Tangerine at the Art Center.

I know I’m just scratching the surface. No doubt, dear reader, you can think of others who deserve recognition. You can nominate them at the Iowa Restaurant Association’s 40 Women to Watch webpage.

Wini Moranville writes about food, wine and dining for dsm magazine and dsmWeekly. Follow her on Facebook at All Things Food–DSM.

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