The food and restaurant industry wouldn’t be what it is today without contributions from many important female chefs and entrepreneurs. To highlight the achievements of women in the restaurant business this Women’s History month, we wanted to take a look at female leaders of the past and present who have made this possible for women in the industry today.
Hattie Burr: The Woman Suffrage Cookbook
Considered the oldest fundraising cookbook in support of women’s suffrage, The Woman Suffrage Cookbook was created to be sold at events in Boston in 1886 and 1890 to raise funds for municipal suffrage campaigns.
The cookbook was edited by Hattie A. Burr, who tried to hide the call for this radical change known as women’s rights with a “cloak of respectability and tradition.” As the editor, Burr was able to gather recipes from prominent female leaders like Mary A. Livermore and leading suffragists Lucy Stone, Julia Ward Howe, and Frances Willard.
As a tool, The Woman Suffrage Cookbook used the common practice of cooking to communicate with women of all social classes not only about food and domesticity but the main goal: women’s right to vote.
Edna Lewis’s story is that of the American Dream. As the granddaughter of a freed slave, Lewis took the culinary world by the apron, opening up her restaurant, Café Nicholson, in Manhattan’s East Side during the 1940s.
Focusing her business on Southern cooking, Lewis became a local household name for being a female African American chef.
Her notable guests included Marlon Brando, Howard Hughes, Salvador Dali, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Truman Capote. Lewis also penned three cookbooks and received an honorary doctorate in culinary arts from Johnson & Wales University in 1996.
Ruth Fertel: Ruth’s Chris Steak House
Most of us have heard of Ruth’s Chris Steak House. But how many of us know the founder’s unique history?
In 1965, Ruth Fertel, a divorced mother of two and a Tulane University lab technician, mortgaged her home for $22,000 to buy a small 60-seat restaurant in New Orleans. That restaurant was named Chris Steak House. Shortly after Fertel purchased the establishment, a fire forced her to change the original location and she renamed the restaurant, “Ruth’s Chris Steak House.”
Though she had no restaurant experience, Ruth’s Chris Steak House became a huge success. Fertel opened her first franchise in 1977 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Kat Cole, FOCUS Brands Inc., and Cinnabon
Kat Cole’s story is not your average COO and presidential tale. At age 17, Cole was a server at Hooters, always working extra shifts, and lending a hand when she could. People took notice. By 19, she was made a manager and regional trainer for the brand and received the offer to help expand the company internationally. At age 25, Cole was named the company’s vice president. During this time, she also dropped out of college as her career in the restaurant industry took off.
Though she does not have a bachelor’s degree, Cole was accepted into multiple MBA programs at the recommendation of big-name CEOs.
In 2010, she said farewell to the place where she earned her start and became the CEO of Cinnabon.
Could you imagine stepping foot inside the White House every day? For Cristeta Comerford, that’s her reality.
Born in Manila, Philippines, Comerford came to America in her 20s. Little did she know, she would become the first woman to become the executive chef at the White House. Serving as an assistant chef during the Clinton Administration, her passion and talents came alive. Former First Lady Laura Bush appointed her in August 2005 as the executive chef, and she has since showcased the best of American cuisines.
Celebrate the Extraordinary Women in Your Life With Cork Bar & Restaurant
Whether they’re a close family member or friend, tell the exceptional women in your life you care with a gift card from Cork Bar & Restaurant or make reservations for dinner in Wilkes-Barre to have an amazing meal you can be sure they’ll love.