Great article in this month’s Waitrose magazine – which I got free with my new loyalty card – on successful business women in Food.
The five women featured are:
- Mary Berry
- Ruth Rogers – head chef and co founder of The River Cafe in London
- Sam Linter – head winemaker at the UK Wine Producer of the Year for 2012, Bolney Wine Estate in Sussex
- April Broomfield – executive chef and co owner of The Spotted Pig and The Breslin Bar and Dining Room in New York
- Marina O’Loughlin – secret restaurant critic for The Guardian Weekend
- Martha Payne – a ten year old Scottish schoolgirl who raised money for Malawian children to have school meals
Mary is the only one whose name I actually know. She has been a legend for as long as I can remember, writing recipe books since 1970 and working on television. I rediscovered her on BBC Two recently where she is currently a judge The Great British Bake Off.
Reading her piece under the heading ‘Icon’ is that, like me, she often does work for nothing when she wants to learn about about something and gain experience. That passion can communicate itself to clients, who know all that knowledge and enthusiasm will be directed towards achieving the best end result.
I was also intrigued by her comments about not wanting to be a chef but a cook. To me, watching people cook up ingredients that I will never be able to use is a bit of an indulgence and Mary feels the same way. She wants to produce programmes that include recipes that people can just knock up with the staples from their cupboards. That way, more people are likely to go into the kitchen and give it a go.
She talks about how men dominate the restaurant and hotel trade but highlights how the whole food world has a lot of women – Angela Hartnett and Madhur Jaffrey amongst others – and says that being a woman has never held her back because if you know your subject, you won’t be baffled by anything. I can definitely empathise with that statement. Whilst I can be terrified going into my social media workshops or presentations with lots of attendees because I don’t enjoy the thought of speaking in public, once I’ve got past the first couple of sentences, my natural love of my theme takes over… and then you have to shut me up.
25 years ago, she started her restaurant with another woman and, right from the start, they were able to set their own standards about equality without having to have ‘quotas’. As many studies have shown, the best businesses have a balance of men and women – unlike the male dominated world of the House of Commons where rules have to be set in place to achieve parity.
Sam is one of few successful business women in the wine industry which is dominated by men and many resented her when she first got started and wanted to change the way that things were done. But her belief that women have an eye for detail led her to have a team which encourages women… and producing a good English pinot noir was her greatest achievement, especially as people said that it could not be done.
An English woman in New York for the last ten years, she still produces British cooking and has Michelin stars for both her restaurants. I liked her advice for young female chefs which was to work hard, prove yourself, stand by your beliefs, keep learning and don’t care what anybody else thinks.
I think those are words that any female entrepreneur should take to heart.
Marina is the only national critic to have kept her identity a secret and comments that the difference between male and female chefs is that the women don’t tend to be so overt about going after the Michelin stars, they want beautiful food which keeps the punters happy.
Martha lives on her parents’ smallholding in a remote part of Western Scotland but she writes a blog called NeverSeconds reviewing her school lunches, which has just been turned into a book. She campaigns for healthier eating and raised more than £120,000 to build school kitchens in Malawi. As a result of her efforts, 12,000 children there will now get a free school meal every day for a year.