Don’t ever say that glamour and strength are mutually exclusive. In fact, the mere suggestion could be perceived as sparring words to local culinary heroes Jolene Mannina, chef Sonia El-Nawal and Kim Owens. The influential trio of friends are determined to grow the roles for women in the industry without losing their feminine edge.
From left: Chef Sonia El-Nawal, Jolene Mannina and Kim Owens.
Mannina, founder of Secretburger.com and Back of the House Brawl, has dedicated herself to creating a community around food. Her upcoming event Picnic in the Alley is a female-driven food event that will take place at Fergusons Downtown on October 6. “Part of my mission for Picnic in the Alley is to find new talent and new female voices that no one has heard before,” she says.
“We’ve lost the glam,” chimes in El-Nawal, chef and owner of Rooster Boy Cafe, who has plans for making her popular Rooster Boy Granola a national brand later this year. “I am working on a way to be a chef and still look glamorous while I cook,” says the chef, whose penchant for fashion could almost rival her passion for food. She remembers when women used to compete with each other for men’s approval. “It’s not that way now,” she says. “I don’t need to compete with other women chefs because we all have a place.”
Owens, a champion of mentoring and developing female talent around her, feels the same. Later this fall, she will open Main St. Provisions with chef Justin Kingsley in Downtown—the rest of her own. “I’ve spent my entire life in the restaurant business,” she explains. “I’ve opened 15 restaurants for others. Now, it’s time to do it for myself.” Owens is encouraged by the growth in female inuence. “The fact that we can be powerful and successful and feminine and glamorous solidifies how far we’ve come,” she says. “We have to continue to support each other to keep the momentum moving forward.”