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International Women’s Day 2020: Women Inspiring the Food Industry

/ Categories Alumni, News & events, #LeithsLoves / Author:

International Women’s Day 2020: Women Inspiring the Food Industry

International Women's Day 2020; what better day than today to celebrate the female movers and shakers of the food industry?

What was once, and to an extent is still considered, a male-dominated industry of food and drink, is everyday being challenged, empowered and inspired by a growing line-up of talented, motivated women. As a business which was co-founded by two women and is currently led by a female director, equal opportunities for men and women in food is embedded in the culture here at Leiths. We watch both our female and male graduates grow with us, spread their wings in the industry and achieve remarkable careers. We wanted to take today to show our appreciation for a few of the many women in the food industry who are inspiring us all.

Skye Gyngell (Spring Restaurant)

As ex head chef of Petersham Nurseries, food editor of Vogue, and founder of Spring Restaurant in Somerset House, it’s no wonder that Skye Gyngell is an inspiration to us all. In alignment with the current climate crisis, she is an important figure in the food industry as a strong advocate for the sustainable futures of food and restaurants. She has managed to completely eliminate the use of single-use plastic at Spring, as well as offering an affordable, seasonal scratch menu made up of surplus produce which would otherwise go to waste. Her kitchen is made up of a team of strong female and male chefs, including head chef and Leiths graduate, Rose Ashby.

Asma Khan (Darjeeling Express)

Described by one of our students as being at “the forefront of feminism in the hospitality industry”, Asma Khan has created new opportunities for women through running an all-female kitchen at her acclaimed restaurant, Darjeeling Express in central London. Her team is made up of a strong unit of housewives and always has been; women who have cooked with passion at home for years and who serve Indian food the way it is meant to be eaten. Recently Asma was also the first British cook to star on leading Netflix docuseries, Chef’s Table, and was voted Female Entrepreneur of the Year at the Asian Restaurant Awards in 2018.

Ravneet Gill (Countertalk)

Pastry chef, Ravneet Gill, has had her fair share of experience in professional kitchens; not all positive experiences at that. She was exposed to unhealthy working environments where staff weren’t treated fairly and shift patterns were often beyond antisocial. So Ravneet decided to take matters into her own hands and challenge the negative nature of hospitality employment and in 2018 founded Countertalk; a supportive careers platform which aims to connect chefs, provide education and promote the industry. The platform connects those seeking employment in hospitality with businesses and restaurants who advocate a healthy, happy working environment.

The Cookbook Festival Team (The Cookbook Festival)

Cookbook authors and friends, Jo Pratt and Lucy Cufflin, founded the Chiswick-based Cookbook Festival; a non-profit community company which raises money for The Felix Project; fighting hunger and food waste across London. They formed a committee with Fran Warde and a group of wonderful, passionate foodie women. Aside from running a successful annual festival, together they run supper clubs all year round celebrating women in the food industry, as well as other events and insightful workshops.

Samin Nosrat (Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat)

Samin Nosrat, where to begin? Ever since she graced us at Leiths last year for an evening of demonstrations and tastings, we have remained in awe of her full heart and infectious laughter. Samin worked her way up through the ranks in restaurants and is now recognised as an international culinary icon. She spoke about how she was often told not to expect success in the industry - and then a legendary cookbook, Netflix series and countless New York Times columns later – it’s safe to say she’s defied these odds. Her book come Netflix show Salt Fat Acid Heat took the food world by a storm upon its release in 2017, with Samin’s ability to distil decades of professional experience into just four simple elements. Her warmth, her wealth of food knowledge and delicious recipes make her one of the most inspiring contemporary food writers of today.

Natalia Ribbe (Ladies of Restaurants)

Natalia Ribbe worked in restaurants for years before founding the UK-based collective for women working in hospitality, Ladies of Restaurants. L.O.R. hosts events, workshops, and training sessions, as well as creating networking opportunities and inspiring content; all to support and champion women “living that hospitality life”, and to lead positive action addressing the gender gap in the industry. L.O.R. are hosting an all-day festival consisting of talks, workshops, food and pampering on 30th March, check it out here: https://www.ladiesofrestaurant...

Olia Hercules (Chef, Food Writer and Food Stylist)

Leiths alumna, Olia Hercules, has carved a hugely inspiring career for herself as a chef and food writer; author of award-winning cookbook Mamushka, Kaukasis and her latest title Summer Kitchens heading to our bookshelves very soon. She is now a prominent, celebrated female figure in the London food scene with her writing and recipes featuring in all of our favourite food magazines, appearing on national cookery shows, leading supper clubs and hosting intimate, intricate dumpling workshops from her own home in East London. Olia brings the food cultures and cuisines of less explored countries to London, and we just can’t get enough.

Melanie Johnson (Food Writer, Food Stylist and Photographer)

Another Leiths alumna who has wowed us all with her varied, creative career is Country Life food columnist, stylist and photographer, Melanie Johnson. Melanie has combined her love of art with her passion for food and she cooks, writes and photographs her own delicious recipes for her personal brand; Mel at Home, as well as for her regular column in Country Life magazine. As if this incredibly talented woman doesn’t have enough to keep her busy as it is, she has been fighting her recent diagnosis of breast cancer, and has continued to work and share her story as she does so – a superwoman to say the least.

You can view Mel’s JustGiving page here:

Saliha Mahmood Ahmed (Cookbook Author and NHS Gastro Doctor)

Alongside working in the NHS as a Gastroenterologist, Dr Saliha Mahmood Ahmed succeeded to win MasterChef UK in 2017. Since then her culinary career has taken off, which she has continued to balance in harmony with her medical profession. Saliha released her first ever cookbook last year, Khazana, and it won the Observer Food Monthly Cookbook of the Year 2019 which is an outstanding achievement. They say that women are skilled at multi-tasking, and this motivated lady is living proof!

Alice Williams (Luminary Bakery)

Our students have expressed the greatest admiration for founder Alice Williams and the team at Luminary Bakery in East and North London. Luminary bakery is a social enterprise created to offer opportunities to women who have had a social and economic disadvantage. Luminary exists to empower these women through offering skills training, paid employment and a supportive community to help them thrive and build a future for themselves. We love what Luminary stands for, and we’re pretty fond of their delicious baked goods too.

Author: Liv Shaheen


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