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Cherry Bombe Jubilee

Meryle Evans - April 14th, 2014

One pastry chef flew in from Idaho, a caterer took the train from Philadelphia, and a private chef had a quick subway ride down the west side to Manhattan’s High Line Hotel on March 30 to join over 300 attendees at Cherry Bombe magazine’s Jubilee, “a celebration of women in the world of food.”

While twitter et al were abound with enthusiastic recaps and nuggets of wisdom passed along from the stellar lineup of speakers at this inspirational, motivational day-long conference, to some seasoned observers an equally impressive takeaway was the audience itself. Spanning Alice Waters to the Good Food Jobs duo Taylor Cocalis and Dorothy Neagle, the crowd covered diverse lifestyles and careers—chefs, restaurateurs, entrepreneurs, PR practitioners, and media—testifying to the enormous growth of influence of women in the industry.

The biannual magazine’s co-founders, Kerry Diamond and Claudia Wu, organized the event, thoughtfully alternating panels and speakers with breaks for noshing and networking, while carrying out the conference theme of “conversations about the issues—big and small—that affect us, our loved ones, our colleagues, and our livelihoods.” Diamond had thought about having a conference since the first issue of Cherry Bombe, but accelerated the planning after last fall’s publication of the infamous Time magazine homage to the other gender, The Gods of Food.

The high-profile speakers were around all day for informal follow-up chats. Gathering at tall tables with baked goods from BabyCakes and yogurt parfaits from Organic Avenue, participants swapped opinions about obesity with food policy expert, professor Marion Nestle, and debated the merits of culinary school with president/founder of The International Culinary Center, Dorothy Cann Hamilton.

It was babies, not cakes, that caused a stir when Bon Appétit’s Christine Muhlke held her toddler on the podium moderating a panel of working mothers, with chef/restaurateurs Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune, whose succinct achievement was owning her restaurant, and Suzanne Goin, with four restaurants and three children in California, who admitted that “I have to accept that sometimes I’m disappointing people.”

An admiring crowd waited to hear more from Alexis Miesen, co-founder of Brooklyn’s Blue Marble Ice Cream, who built a shop with women in Rwanda and has established a non-profit venture, Blue Marble Dream, to open more shops in areas recovering from conflict or natural disasters.

Sharing sandwiches and kale salad from Smiles To Go with New York City chefs, Anita Lo of Annisa, the Spotted Pig’s April Bloomfield, Sara Kramer, formerly of Glasserie, and Katie Button, of Curate, Asheville, North Carolina. provided opportunities to continue one thread of discussion from their panel, “Getting Your Clog in the Door,” about the responsibility to mentor their employees.

Button gave an example of how her mentor, chef José Andrés, came down to help when her restaurant opened. She went on to observe that people kept mentioning the word “lucky,” but that “the reason we’re here today has less to do with luck, and more to do with hard work, passion, drive, and professionalism.” (Read more about Button in The Accidental Chef, June 2013.)

Sipping wine from Macari Wines from the North Fork of Long Island and sampling Anne Saxelby’s fine selection of cheese, attendees parted with heads whirling with advice ranging from Dirt Candy chef/owner Amanda Cohen’s suggestion to promote yourself, “media makes your career now;” to Ruth Reichl’s succinct “do the hardest thing.”

Reichl’s keynote conversation with food writer Julia Turshen, which concluded the conference, offered the thought that women may be looking for something different than fame. “Maybe what we should change is the model of what we consider success for women in food.”