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Highlights From The Big Dish, Chatelaine’s Celebration Of Women And Food

Our inaugural event brought together some of Canada's most inspiring foodies, from chefs to bloggers to farmers to entrepreneurs

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What happens when you bring together some of the gutsiest and most innovative women in food, give them microphones, some good questions and, of course, lots of great eats? Magic, of course. That’s one word we can comfortably use to describe Chatelaine‘s inaugural Big Dish event, a one-day conference designed to highlight the amazing work women are doing in their kitchens and communities and get them talking with one another about everything from how to navigate the bro culture in kitchens, to cultural appropriation of food, to the most surprising way to pep up a brownie.

Here’s a roundup of some of the revelations from Chatelaine‘s big women-in-food extravaganza. (Be sure to check it out next year!)

Big Dish opening keynote speaker Chef Lynn Crawford.

Big Dish opening keynote speaker Chef Lynn Crawford. Photo, Maggie Naylor.

“I’ve always wanted to be the best, not for anyone else, but for me… I’ve always been myself in this world — that’s key. You’re doing what you love because you want to make a difference.” — Lynn Crawfordcelebrity chef, cookbook author, and restaurateur, during her opening keynote at The Big Dish.

Photo by AJ Fernando

Photo, AJ Fernando.

“My mom is the best mentor I’ve ever had. She’s always tried to do the best version of what she has with everything she has. She passed that on to me. I try my best and I look to her as an example.” — Nuit Regular, chef and co-owner of PAI Northern Thai Kitchen, Sabai Sabai, Sukho Thai, and the newly opened Kiin in Toronto, who at age 12, started selling pad thai to her friends at school.

Photo by Maggie Naylor

Photo, Maggie Naylor.

“When you bring up the food from a minority, bring up the minority as well. Cite your sources. Be an advocate. Have partners — bring up the community and the culture you’re profiting off of. Share the wealth.” — Tara O’Brady, Seven Spoons author and food writer during the “We Are What We Eat” panel.

Photo by Sarah Boesveld

Photo, Sarah Boesveld.

“My food crush is Ruth Klahsen — she’s a badass and a cheese frontierswoman” — Cara Benjamin-Pace (left), co-founder and executive director of Newcomer Kitchen, and Klahsen (right), owner and operator of Monforte Dairy in Stratford, Ont.

De Sousa, left, with Chatelaine editor-in-chief, Lianne George

De Sousa, left, with Chatelaine editor-in-chief, Lianne George. Photo, Maggie Naylor.

“I used to feel like I needed to be this super hardass who was strict all the time. But I didn’t like coming to work feeling that way. I just had to adapt and change my management style a bit. I’ve acquired a lot of patience, I think, since becoming a parent… you don’t necessarily have to yell and scream to get your point across.” —Connie DeSousa, Top Chef Canada finalist, restaurateur (of Calgary’s CHARCUT and Charbar), chef and butcher.

Photo by Maggie Naylor

Photo, Maggie Naylor.

“We have a ton of associations in our industry that represent every kind of imaginable food Ontario and Canadian farmers are growing. You look at those boards and we know 80 to 99, 100 percent of those boards are made up of old white, grey-haired guys. How does that change? Those guys know women that are smart and capable and can kick ass – they’ve gotta ask. It doesn’t change unless the guys are part of this.” — Jen Christie, founder of the AG Women’s Network, a volunteer organization that connects women in the industry and advocates for more diversity, on how to address the gender imbalance in food industries.

Photo by Maggie Naylor

Photo, Maggie Naylor.

“There’s a lot of chicks, you know them by name, you know their food, you love their food, just f***ing include women, you idiots!” — Ivy Knight, author, food writer and former cook, on a very simple solution to the lack of representation of women in kitchens and at food events.

Photo by Maggie Naylor

Photo, Maggie Naylor.

“Women’s connection to the kitchen is not exclusively because the patriarchy put us there. We can engage on our own terms.” — Joshna Maharaj, chef, activist and closing keynote speaker on how women can reclaim food as a nourishing and empowering part of our lives.

Photo, Sarah Boesveld.

Photo, Sarah Boesveld.

“I like to put hot sauce on a brownie” — Chef La-toyaowner of Twist Catering and guest at Big Dish, when asked for her most surprising condiment and dessert pairing.