Culturally, 2017 was a wild ride, out of which emerged a renewed empowerment of women and a society more open to hearing their voices. This cultural shift is being felt seismically throughout the restaurant industry, and Nashville is no exception. Yes, complaints about the constant coverage of the chef bro posse and the dearth of diversity are well founded. Examine our culinary landscape more deeply, and it reveals a wealth of women executive chefs, restaurateurs, sommeliers, pastry chefs, entrepreneurs, and hospitality professionals who are putting their personal stamps on our city’s food scene.
Historically, the steady stellar work of chefs Deb Paquette and Margot McCormack paved the way for chef Maneet Chauhan to relocate here and create her dynamic trio of restaurants, and chef Julia Sullivan to return home to open her much-acclaimed Henrietta Red. Thornton Prince can rightfully be called the father of Nashville hot chicken, but his great-niece, Andre Prince Jeffries, proprietor of Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack since 1980, has kept the skillets sizzling.
Within the fields of food, beverage, and hospitality, many women are rising in the ranks unheralded, or have been steadily working, under the radar. In no way can this article do justice to all of them or give credit to the many who led the way before them. But, in giving voice to some, we hear a chorus more harmonic than discordant, resonating on the subjects of kitchen culture, diversity, community, and mentorship.