In celebration of International Women’s Day, we salute four women who have helped change the face of the food and wine industry. Their work, contributions and influence in their areas of expertise have helped to #BreakTheBias that is still very much present in the food industry, where diversity, inclusiveness and equality are still lacking today.
Asma Khan, The Impactful Chef
Aside from being profiled in Netflix’s “Chef’s Table” and named number one in Business Insider’s “100 coolest people in food and drink” list in 2019, Asma Khan is a leader who empowers women by challenging the archaic norms of the hospitality industry.
In 2017 Khan opened Darjeeling Express in London's Soho, a restaurant employing only women immigrants without professional training.
“My food represents every woman in South Asia who was not respected for the food she cooked, whose food was taken for granted, and where she was taken for granted as well. I am the face of all the women who never got the respect they deserved. This is what drives me. It’s not a food business, it’s about social change. I want people to recognize that you need to value the hands that cook.”
In the future Asma dreams of opening a restaurant that would be an incubator for future food CEOs. “I know that change happens when the leader is a woman.”
Read more about Asma here.
Pascaline Lepeltier, The Wine Expert
Pascaline is the first woman Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF) Sommelier Lauréate, a prestigious award given to craftsmen in France every four years, as well as the winner of the Meilleur Sommelier de France in 2018.
A trailblazer for women in a predominantly male industry, Pascaline’s passion is sustainability in wine and those practices that reflect human care, biodynamic principles, and organic farming.
“I like the complexity of wine, its connection to nature and people. It allows me to address deep environmental reflections and also to satisfy this idea that we have an ethical commitment and a professional responsibility of being a citizen of the world.”
Pascaline’s future project is to open a training school to create an impact on a larger scale.
“Currently we are in a reproduction of the educational model that does not evolve, or little, towards more responsible practices, so I want to reinvent it. How can I train the next generation of sommeliers or wine buyers to actively understand the impact of their job? Wine has a special place in agriculture, and at the forefront of the necessary changes that need to happen.”
Read more about Pascaline here.
Ariane Daguin, The Sustainable Meat Pioneer
A pioneer in the humane farming movement, Ariane Daguin is the owner and CEO of D’Artagnan, a sustainably raised meat company she founded 37 years ago, long before the farm-to-table philosophy was even a thing. Ariana’s company is arguably the industry’s most prestigious humanely raised protéin producer. “A happy chicken is a tasty chicken,” she says.
“Sustainability is breeding with great respect for the animal. That's the main difference between animals that are responsibly raised and those that are factory farmed. When you have this respect, the quality follows.”
D’Artagnan’s products are sourced from 2000 small farmers and ranchers around the United States that must adhere to strict specifications. Animals must be free range, raised without medication and in a low-stress environment. The company supplies the highest quality of meats, game and pátés to home cooks and some of the country’s best restaurant chefs.
In addition to her company, in 2021 Ariane opened a non-profit silvopasture regenerative farm and education center with her daughter Alix in upstate New York called AOOA (“All for one and one for all” from Alexandre Dumas’ Three Musketeers).
Read more about Ariane here.
Yemi Amu, The Urban Farmer
Nigerian native Yemi Amu founded New York City’s first and only publicly accessible outdoor aquaponics farm and education center called Oko Farms. Oko Farms' mission is to practice and promote aquaponics as a sustainable farming method that mitigates the impact of climate change, saves water, and increases food security for New York City.
Yemi’s organization educates children and adults of all racial and socioeconomic backgrounds by partnering with schools and other organizations and giving people access to the farm.
“It shouldn’t be a privilege to have access to healthy food,” she says.
“Where I come from, Nigeria, poor people eat vegetables. In the United States, it’s different. I wondered how I could make eating vegetables feel normal to everyone? Together with social workers, we decided gardening would be the best way to connect people to food. By learning how to grow produce, perceptions are demystified. So, I started growing food because I wanted to teach everyone how to do it for themselves.”
Read more about Yemi here.
Chefs for Impact is a NYC based nonprofit educating children and adults about the environmental and well-being impact of healthy and sustainable foods.
Chefs for Impact collaborates with local schools and community centers, and organizes food and wine events as well as online instructional material.
The organization is supported by some of the food industry’s leading authorities, Michelin starred chefs, and sustainability experts.
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