Woman’s Place is in the Kitchen... Dining Room & Board Room

SFGN's Dec. Mirror, Annie Blake, Carol Moran @Apt 9F, Lisabet Summa @Summa Via Facebook.

(Mirror) According to 2018 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 22 percent of chefs and head cooks are women, although women make up over 55 percent of the workforce in food preparation and serving-related occupations. When it comes to management positions in the restaurant industry, the percentage drops to single digits. 

The hospitality industry serves as a first work experience for many women. Restaurants and bars not only discriminate against women, they also often create an atmosphere which encourages sexual harassment.

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Things are changing, slowly but steadily.  

The Mirror interviewed three women from three different  operations; Carol Moran co-owner of the recently opened Apartment 9f, a small mom and mom operation; Annie Blake from the mid-sized Death or Glory in Delray Beach; and Lisabet Summa, Culinary Director and Chef Partner with Big Time Restaurant Group (Louis Bossi, Rocco’s Tacos, Big City Tavern, City Cellar, City Oyster, Grease, Barrio) about the challenges and rewards of being women in the male dominated hospitality industry.

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Carol Moran, said she has been in the food and hospitality industry, “Forever!”   She previously operated Thirteen and Thirteen-Even in Wilton Manors. Born and raised in South Florida, she worked in restaurants while putting herself through college and discovered she loved the business. She’s been doing it ever since, in a variety of capacities. She ran the wine program for a super popular busy restaurant in NYC and is now back to home with her wife Nancy to oversee her newest effort, the recently opened Apt 9f on Wilton Drive.

Tell me about your first job in the food and hospitality industry: 

Frankie’s Pizza, which is still operating in Miami. It’s iconic now. This is where I excelled and fell in love with the business. It was small family run and I liked that feel 

Did you have a mentor in the field?

No, not really. Just a lot of trial and error 

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What is the greatest joy/reward you derive from working in the field?  

Giving people a chance and meeting all kinds of different folks who walk through your doors. 

What is the greatest challenge in the food and hospitality industry?

Ugh! Staffing, which is why when I find someone that I jive with, I work with them for life. I tend to call people I have worked with to see where they are at in their life and see if they want to work together again.

Are there any challenges particular to women in the food and hospitality industry?  If so, what are they? 

I think investors absolutely see male restaurant owners as a better investment — “They are stronger and work harder.” “Come with me,” I say 

How have you dealt with those situations?

Only ran across it once and my reply was, “I can run my bar with you on back. Now get out!” (laughs)

What has been your biggest disappointment, professionally? 

Thirteen. It just never really resonated with the community. It was great food and got awesome reviews, but that was it. 

What do you feel was your greatest success professionally? 

Mmm, that’s a tough one. I would have to say my time at Red Lobster, when it was super homophobic. But I started a hostess and left a director. It was hard because it was growing up and learning your style of the person/manager I want to be without sacrificing who I am.  

If you didn’t work in the food and hospitality industry, what job would you like be?

Teaching, for sure. 

What is your latest project:

Apt 9F, we are bringing our NYC home back to Wilton Manors. It is our apartment. We want all to feel like it’s an apartment party. It’s comfortable to hang out in, grab some nibbles and a great craft cocktail, beer or of course kick-ass wine. We have 70 liquors, 20 beers and 20 wines. Surely you will find something you like, and we have some fun new liquors to turn you on to. 

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Annie Blake is one of four co-founders (three of whom are women) of Death or Glory Bar in Delray Beach. In addition to overseeing operations most nights at the restaurant, Blake’s day job is Director of Premium Sales for Cocktail Kingdom, the world’s premier manufacturer and distributor of professional barware (available at the Death or Glory satellite shop). She’s been with Cocktail Kingdom since 2012, where she brands barware for liquor portfolios globally (translation: she’s responsible for badass swag and keeps company with the best drink slingers across the country.)
Blake brought Miracle, the holiday Pop Up Bar, to Death or Glory in 2017 and is

expanding it to other locations in South Florida. This summer, Death or Glory has been

hosting Bar Brawls, a highly popular bartender competition featuring some of the top

cocktail slingers from the tri-county area.

She lives in Boynton Beach with her husband and their dog Buddy, who is the loveable mascot at Death or Glory. She attended NYU for Communication Studies and grew up in Clifton, NJ. 

Tell me about your first job in the food and hospitality industry: 

I was in college. Two guys who owned the rowdy college bar in town decided to open a coffee shop and restaurant called The Daily Grind. I was their first server. The place was completely disorganized and all over the place, complete with a hot-headed chef right out of central casting, but I loved it. I knew I’d never work at the mall again.

Did you have a mentor in the field? 

My boss, Greg Boehm, who is the owner of Cocktail Kingdom and owns multiple NYC bars including 2019 Spirited Award Winner, Katana Kitten, as well as the Miracle franchise, has been an amazing mentor in hospitality, management, and business.  He’s taught me that successful businesses runs well not by micromanagement, but by strategic hiring, management support, teamwork, and highlighting talent.  A simple thank you goes a really long way.  

What is the greatest joy/reward you derive from working in the field?  

The cocktail renaissance has been an amazing time to come back into hospitality, but some cocktail bars take themselves too seriously for my taste. I love our bar, and specifically our tiki bar, because it allows us brings so much fun and whimsy to our cocktails for our guests. What more does anyone want than to escape after a long day?  Cocktails should never be intimidating. I find so much joy when guests trust us to go outside their comfort zone. You don’t like rum or gin? Don’t be so sure. 

What is the greatest challenge in the food and hospitality industry? 

Friends always ask me for guest horror stories, and they don’t really exist. Our guests are lovely people who I’d happily have in my own home. Our 100-year-old house on the other hand, can be a real beast at times. When something breaks during service, like the air conditioning did this summer, I think, why didn’t I just put a restaurant in a strip mall? 

Are there any challenges particular to women in the food & hospitality industry?  

My partner, Ayme Harrison, and I, have certainly encountered challenges.  We have absolutely had (sorry guys) men ask us who actually owns the place.  The same men will often ask if they can "take it off our hands."  More than that though, it’s been our mission since day one to create a safe space for women to drink and dine solo without feeling ostracized or harassed.  

When a former manager suggested we host a ‘ladies night’ we thought--you'd like to ply women with cheap drinks so they’ll be less offended when people hit on them?  Pass.  We’ve made it very clear that Death or Glory is a space in which everyone should be respectful of each other.  I think as women owners, this is both challenging and important. We owe it to women to set the standard. 

How have you dealt with those situations?  

In any situation when you’re dealing with alcohol and people you’ll get someone having a bad day from time to time.  If someone is a little out of line, we let them know we’d be super happy to see their smiling face again...tomorrow. 

What has been your biggest disappointment, professionally? 

I loved being a server in college, but it was beat into my brain that hospitality was a stop-gap job, not a career. I went on to work in book-publishing for ten years, which was a very acceptable, if passion-free career. Anytime I heard the phrase ‘when you do what you love it doesn’t feel like work’ I thought well, you’re either a liar, or you don’t work.  Having the opportunity to return to hospitality through Cocktail Kingdom and now with Death or Glory, I work twice the hours I did in publishing and you’ll never catch me watching the clock. nI wish I’d gone with my gut in the first place. 

What do you feel was your greatest success professionally?  

Death or Glory was nominated for Best New American Cocktail Bar for the Spirited Awards in 2018. The Spirited Awards are like the Academy Awards of the cocktail industry, and the nominations tend to go to big players in large markets.  Getting the nod for our little bar in Delray Beach was unbelievable.  I’d like to think we share it with all the little bars with big ambition. 

If you didn’t work in the food and hospitality industry, what job would you like to have? 

Radio City Music Hall Rockette, obviously. (laughs)

What is your latest project?  

This summer has been a blast — we've brought together South Florida cocktail bartenders with our Bar Brawls competition. Having the community come together, meet each other, collaborate and elevate is amazing. We also have all sorts of fun in the works at Death or Glory, from our “Death or Gory” Halloween pop-up, to Miracle at Death or Glory, which is our Christmas and holiday pop-up. We're also planning monthly cocktail classes with various themes, which will be listed on our Facebook events page facebook.com/deathorglorybar.  We like to keep ourselves on our toes and just hope everyone is having as much fun as we are.    

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Lisabet Summa has been the culinary catalyst for Big Time Restaurant’s extraordinary growth over the past 25 years. She is one of only a few women in the U.S. restaurant industry who is both a senior culinary operations executive and owner.  “LB” is responsible for new concept culinary development, design/build of high-performance kitchens for each brand, menu development, kitchen profitability, food safety, and the hiring, personnel development, and motivation of more than 600 kitchen professionals. 

Prior to joining Todd Herbst and Bill Watson at Big Time Restaurant Group twenty years ago, Lisabet Summa worked with chefs Charlie Trotter and Florida’s Norman Van Aken at Sinclair’s American Grill at Jupiter Beach Resort. Summa was head chef at Café L’Europe on Palm Beach and pastry chef at Café St. Honore in Palm Beach Gardens.  She was an instructor at Florida Culinary Institute where students voted her Best Teacher in 1994. 

A native of Chicago, Lisabet’s early culinary inspiration came from her mother and grandmother. Her first professional culinary job was modest. She served as a line cook at a Chicago diner while attending the Goodman School of Drama. When a friend returned from attending a European cooking school, Summa’s culinary sights were raised, and she left acting behind.  

She selected the French restaurant Alouette as the place she wanted to begin working in the world of haute cuisine.  The all French, all male staff was put off when she knocked on the door and volunteered to work for free, but she won them over quickly.  Later, Summa moved to Chicago’s acclaimed French restaurant, Maxim’s, as pastry chef. 

Tell me about your first job in the food & hospitality industry: 

My first job was running a lemonade stand. But my first real job was at a bar and grill that all my friends worked at as bartenders. The owners decided they wanted to open for breakfast, so I asked to be the breakfast chef. I burned more sheet pan bacon than anyone has a right to. Being a short order cook is not for the faint of heart, but it was interesting enough for me to decide to work at a very good French restaurant in another town for free for three weeks until they offered me a job.

Did you have a mentor in the field? 

I never had a mentor, but as a woman in the industry, I really look up to Nancy Silverton, a female chef and Liz Pruitt, another female chef. I've researched and been inspired by their careers.

What is the greatest joy/reward you derive from working in the field? 

Being part of the tradition of older chefs teaching young chefs the ropes in the kitchen.

What is the greatest challenge in the food and hospitality industry? 

It's a pretty well-known fact that the hospitality industry across the country is experiencing a shortage of employees. I'm not sure why--maybe because there are so many food service operations. Every year, it becomes harder to find cooks. That's why it's important that we create a higher-minded culture and a better work environment to retain people.  

Are there any challenges particular to women in the food and hospitality industry? If so, what are they?  

I think women in any industry can be faced with gender bias. Along with that, if a woman is strong, demonstrative or aggressive, there's always a lot of labelling because those aren't seen as female characteristics, which isn't true, but old ideas about women in the workplace rear their ugly heads. Working with young people, there's a lot more acceptance of women in the workplace. It's the older people who have these attitudes. Young people make up most of workforce in the hospitality industry, so there's been a ton of progress.

How have you dealt with those situations? 

I have been told that women aren't effective in business because they're too emotional. Men like to say, "It's not personal, it's business."  All the biographies I've read of men in business say that everyone brings so much of themselves to running their enterprise. Business is always about relationships. It starts with the human side of things. Having empathy is very important when you're managing a changing and youthful workforce. It has served me well to care about the people who work for me. The notions of gender are breaking down and blurring and it's more about humanity and women are, more and more, able to compete on an equal footing. 

What has been your biggest disappointment, professionally? 

That I didn't travel to Europe in my early 20's. I started working and was supporting myself and didn't have that adventure seeker personality. I was working in kitchens for European chefs, but I didn't have that wanderlust. I was more reserved and a little afraid to travel on my own. If you spent time in European kitchens it was a supplement to a formal education, which I didn't have either. But once you start working twelve-hour days in a kitchen, it's hard to say you're going to go back to school. You feel like your work is your formal education.

What do you feel was your greatest success professionally?  

What's happening right now with my company in the growth of our restaurants, the diversity of our brands, the development of Louie Bossi and Elisabetta's, the Italian branch of the group, as well as Rocco's Tacos, the Mexican branch. I've worked for 25 years, building, operating and overseeing what is now 18 diverse, complicated, trendy, successful kitchens.

If you didn’t work in the food and hospitality industry, what job would you like to have? 
I would be a professional gardener or farmer or involved in textile design.

What is your latest project: 

Elisabetta's, located at 32 East Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach, our newest restaurant, has been open for a month and I couldn't be happier with the restaurant and our staff. The guests already feel like long time customers and they're so appreciative and expressive. We make everything by hand and it's more work to do it that way, but our guests appreciate it and acknowledge it.

 

Check out Rick's Weekly Food Column @

What To Eat: Rick’s Reviews

 

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SFGN's Mirror: Dec. Issue

 

 

 

 

 


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