This week, the Women Chefs and Restaurateurs Conference returned to New York City for the first time in 20 years. Lidia Bastianich, one of the conference’s original founders, was this year’s keynote speaker, and WCR president Elizabeth Falkner was on hand to serve as the emcee for a number of panels.
In addition to panels and talks, a live cooking competition pitted three teams against each other, with three celebrity coaches on hand (Anita Lo, Sherry Yard, and Melissa Kelly). During the two-day conference, chefs, restaurateurs, and food writers shared some of the most important challenges they faced and the things they learned as a result.
On choosing their career paths
“If I put writer on my taxes, I will become one.” — Kat Kinsman, editor-in-chief of Tasting Table
“If you’re in this room, you chose a really, really scary thing to do for a living… The only time I feel like I know what I’m doing is when younger women come to me for career advice and I think, ‘somebody else thinks I’m doing this thing okay, so I guess I am.’ So let’s talk.” — Kat Kinsman
“Choose a project that defines what you want to do with the rest of your life.” — Maricel Presilla, chef, restaurateur, and food historian
On crossing paths with future tastemakers
“It was at this restaurant on the Upper West Side called Sports. She spent a lot of time on her headphones.” — Melissa Clark, New York Times food writer, on working in coat check with Mariah Carey
On forging ahead
“I had so much confidence from knowing nothing.” — Dana Cowin, editor of Food and Wine
On facing personal and professional challenges
“You’ll find time for anything that matters to you. Cancer made me find more strength within the illness, and it made me pathologically positive.” — Dana Cowin
“For women, the longer we steep in hot water, the stronger we get.” — Susan Ungaro, president of The James Beard Foundation
“You have to know how to handle success. Success can cause failure, too.” — Donatella Arpaia, restaurateur and frequent Iron Chef America judge.
On what they would be doing if they hadn’t found food journalism
“[I would be a] foreign war correspondent.” — Kat Kinsman
“The owner of a carefully curated interior design shop, with a little café up front.” — Dana Cowin
“Running a bed and breakfast in Cape May, New Jersey.” — Susan Ungaro
“Academia.” — Melissa Clark
“Taste, taste, taste.” — Anita Lo, chef and owner of Annisa