Women’s Day:We Hold Each Other Up

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Isabelle cheering us on at the Danskin Women’s Triathlon.

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We influence one another for better or worse. Whether we know it or not, we hold each other up.  Sometimes it is calculated and intentional and other times it is done without realising what we have done or who we have had an impact on.

I recently went to a documentary preview and the panel spoke about women in sports.  One of the speakers, Princell Hair, when asked about men’s role in supporting women in sports, stated that he believed that men don’t realise how important it is for them to support the women around them.  This wasn’t said in a condescending or pedantic way, but rather in a genuine introspective way.  For those in the minority it is easier to be reminded of that need because we rely on it.  It’s much harder to see a need that you’ve perhaps never experienced.”We’re not that bright.” he joked.  All kidding aside, I think that regardless of gender, sometimes we all forget how important it is to bring along and support those around us. Our insecurities get in the way. Our busy-ness gets in the way.  Our egos get in the way.  This past week, I reached out to a few women in New England who work with food (since that’s one of the primary focuses of this blog) to ask them about the women who have influenced them.

Jody Adams, chef/partner of Saloniki, Trade and Porto.

As a budding young chef in Boston, Adams was mentored by Julia Child, “this crazy, hilarious culinary dynamo who also happened to be a woman. She showed us that women can do anything.” Now as an established chef, Adams in turn mentors other young culinary hopefuls, always emphasizing the importance of female leaders in the industry.

Renee McLeod owner of Petsi Pies, Inc.

A woman that has inspired and enlightened me is Rachael Solem of Irving House. I met her during one of the first years my business was open and she shared so much of her wisdom and expertise that I will forever be grateful.

It was at a time when I desperately needed to figure out how to balance a new business, a new marriage, a young son and a scared and feisty foster kid.

Rachael showed me the value of philanthropy, the importance of finding causes close to your heart, and how necessary it is to take time out to love and appreciate your family and community.

She helped me make this entrepreneurial journey more than a way to make a living.

She helped me create a life with more connection and meaning than I could have hoped for.

Annie B. Copps, chef, cooking instructor, food writer, and radio personality.

I am happy and feel blessed/lucky to have so many great female (and male) role models and mentors. Really. Young. Old. Smart. Mentally challenged. Near me almost every day and some long gone. Mega watt famous and others living in the shadows.

How do I not tell you about my mother? sister? aunts? cousins?

I just spent last weekend with one of my dearest friends, so she is very much swirling around the front of my mind.  Angela Raynor is a naturally kind and nurturing person who I admire beyond belief because of her ability to remain calm and present. Certainly spontaneous, but so very thoughtful and respectful of people and the perspectives they might have and the distortions or clarity by which they see negotiate their lives.  Very little in this life rattles her and she has had some tough moments.

Dolly Bourommavong, Chef de Cuisine of Metropolis Café and the first female chef for The Aquitaine Group.

My mother is my inspiration. She was a single parent raising two girls. She did everything that was needed to raise us in a positive environment and just let us be kids. My mother had to work long hours to provide for us, but still made time to help make treats for bake sales and pot lucks. She taught me that in order to succeed, you must work hard. And if you want it bad enough, you work even harder to get it.

Elaine Hsieh, Chocolatier and co-owner of award winning EHChocolatier based in Somerville.

I am a Joanne Chang fan girl. We met once over coffee at Flour and she was both generous and gracious with her time and advice about starting a food business.  Over the years, we’ve been lucky to have Flour alum and interns in our kitchen, who have all had tremendous work ethic.  Stories are inevitably shared about Joanne and Flour which simply reinforces my respect for who she is as a person and business owner.  The incredible growth of Flour while maintaining a high quality product and a work environment of mutual respect between Joanne and her staff is something to aspire for myself and EHChocolatier.

Kathy Sidell, Author and President and Culinarian of the MET Restaurant Group.

Simone De Beauvoir had a profound influence on me. I read the her book The Second Sex, Woman as Other 1949 at a young age, which was enlightening in terms of her thinking as a woman. How woman must be emancipated from their given roles or rather not defined by them. Revolutionary in 1949 when it was written!!

Her unconventional relationship with Jean Paul Sartre was inspiring in terms of their equality and the freedom they allowed each other – yet very secure in their love for one another. Their lifestyle was also so appealing to me – cafes and restaurants as a meeting places to explore the ideas and politics of the time with other local intellectuals.

At its best, this is what a restaurant/bar/cafe should be – a gathering place to foster human connection and to share and develop thoughts that transcend and impact.

Perhaps, somewhere, I always wanted to create that kind of place. Where people would be on the forefront of thinking about the way our lives move at any given time.

I am lucky to have friends I have met at the kids’ school, friends I have met through my work and blogging networks, that help raise me up.  My mother, grandmothers and aunts have all been inspirations to me throughout my life as well.  Artists and chefs in New England continue to inspire me through their work as well.   

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