March 31, 2021

The first publicly held celebration specifically honoring women was in 1978. An observance that honored the often overlooked contributions of women to history, culture and society.

Women’s History Month grew from a week-long celebration originating in a school district in Sonoma, CA. The idea spread across the country when, in 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued a presidential proclamation declaring the week as National Women’s History Week. Six years later, the National Women’s History Project petitioned congress to expand the event to the month long celebration as we now know it.

To commemorate this month, Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts is excited to feature some of our female students, alumni, faculty and staff. We’ve asked them to share thoughts on the heroines that were influential in their lives and how their personal and professional paths may have been guided by them.

Students

Angela Medina-Escoffier StudentAngela Medina – Online Culinary Arts

What made you decide to pursue a career in culinary arts?
Realizing that cooking food provides a unique way to show care and connect with people.

Who was your biggest culinary influencer or mentor? How did that person impact your culinary journey?
My biggest mentor is Chef Laurent Suaudeau. I took all the demo classes in his kitchen while living in Brazil. Watching him cook with such love and passion, while sharing his stories in France with his mentor Paul Bocuse, made me want to pursue a career in culinary arts..

What’s the best piece of culinary advice you’ve received?
Be humble. Being a chef is not about being a star, but rather being a great cook.

Describe a way you support other women in the culinary industry? What resources do you use?
I am not in the culinary industry yet, but I do support many women around me. I love sharing recipes, tips, ideas, and all the different things I’ve learned during my journey to become a chef. I especially enjoy passing on the joy and passion for food, which I do through my cooking and my recipes.

Joline Silversmith-Escoffier StudentJoline Silversmith – Online Culinary Arts – Education Director, Anishinaabeg of Naongashiing, Lake of the Woods, Ontario, Canada

What made you decide to pursue a career in culinary arts?
I subconsciously decided to pursue a Culinary Arts career at the age of 15; at the time I worked for our community’s resort, and some of my duties included hostess, server and kitchen help. I loved the atmosphere that we presented, and that our guests brought to us. It was fun yet professional, and rarely felt like ‘work’.

Skipping forward to more than a decade, my son was born, and as I had been flitting through jobs that were worked to simply pay the bills, I wanted a career that I could enjoy while providing stability and comfort for my son as he grew. I completed my 1st year culinary certificate when my son was a toddler, and I decided to accept the full-time job offer from the restaurant that I did my practical training in. I have worked at many different venues since, each one building my knowledge and skills set.

Who was your biggest culinary influencer or mentor? How did that person impact your culinary journey?
My Aunt, who had a big role in raising me, worked at our community’s resort as a professionally trained cook. She was amazing at the work she did, everyone loved her food. I looked up to her and wanted to be like her.

My late Uncle suggested that I pursue a Culinary education. On my Aunt’s days off from work, I took over cooking the meals, and everyone loved my cooking as well.

As I became more comfortable in my eventual Culinary career, thinking of how strong and dedicated my Aunt had been, really influenced me in the difficult times I faced discrimination and other unpleasant incidences by my male coworkers. I knew I carried our bloodline’s strength and honor, and as a woman that gave me the determination I needed to also keep up with the physically demanding work, eventually earning me the respect of the males in my workplaces. Also, my late Uncle’s belief in me kept me going through the times I wanted to give up, as I strove to make him even more proud of me than he was when I was a teenager.

What’s the best piece of Culinary advice you’ve received?
The best piece of Culinary advice I received was from my 1st Culinary Instructor/Chef, who told our class “Always remember that everyone is expendable, and there are many people looking for employment and hoping to fill your positions.”

While some may have viewed that as a negative outlook, I took it to heart. On days I lost my motivation for reasons such as being overtired, overworked, underpaid, or any other personal issues I dealt with over the years, those words always came to mind and made me push myself harder and with more determination than what I would have mustered up on my own.
Those words often made me strive to go above and beyond what I believed I was capable of.

Describe a way you support other women in the Culinary Industry. What resources do you use?
Most of the women I have encountered in my Culinary journey have worked in the front of the house. The times I have worked with women in the kitchen, I do my best to encourage them, to step up my game to allow extra time to help them complete tasks they have stressed about. I often teach the women (and males) I worked with the skill sets I have obtained through the years, especially pertaining to their jobs, so they might have an easier time performing their tasks.

I have also taught women how to stand up for themselves as women, against discrimination and other harassments. As I continue in my Culinary education and career, I hope to be a role model to women who want to enter the workforce, especially as a single parent, or make career changes as a part of the aging process, who wish to pursue a successful career in a traditionally male dominated profession.

Alumni

Pascal Simon-Escoffier AlumniPascal Simon – Chef/Owner – Bake Austin

What made you decide to pursue a career in culinary arts?
I chose a career in culinary arts for practical reasons. In 2011 I found myself in a major life change, I was a stay-at-home mom and going through a divorce. I had to create a new career path where I could support my children, myself and at the same time be available when my kids needed me. I went to Auguste Escoffier for a Gingerbread house event with my kids and this is where I started considering the idea of going to culinary school. I loved baking since early childhood and prior to enrolling in Auguste Escoffier, I was already playing around with the idea of starting a cake business.

Who was your biggest culinary influencer or mentor? How did that person impact your culinary journey?
It all started with my grandmother and cousin who both were avid bakers and cake decorators. But I have to say my biggest culinary influencer was, and still is Chef Pavla van Bibber, my mentor, and teacher at Auguste Escoffier. Her passion for the culinary arts as well as her love for teaching and her students was so inspiring to me. I was going through a life change and felt particularly vulnerable and her warmth, yet firm grip on the classroom made me feel safe. I wanted to show up for her and make her proud.

How did that impact my culinary journey? I can tell you that because of Chef Pavla, I am now a culinary arts teacher myself. I think of her in every class, I talk about her, I dedicated my book to her and we are still to this day in touch. She taught me to be kind but firm, she taught me to stay focused on the task and she rekindled my passion for baking and connected me back to my European roots. Chef Pavla also taught me to really listen to all my students and be present. She has truly changed my life. I don’t know anyone who works harder and loves harder than her.

What’s the best piece of culinary advice you’ve received or given?
This one is funny, “When in doubt throw it out” I hear it in my head when I debate if I should eat something that is questionable, or even when my kids or students ask me. It teaches you also to properly date the food in your fridge. 🙂

Describe a way you support other women in the culinary industry? What resources do you use?
I teach children and I have many young ladies who see me as their mentor, I help them with their small business ventures, hire them as my assistants, or I just empower them by being present and teaching them valuable life skills.

Outside of my business I also have supported many women with their small businesses, by helping them with website development, social media marketing, and business plans. We are a village and we have to have each other’s back.

Joi Chevalier-Escoffier AlumniJoi Chevalier – Chef/Owner – The Cook’s Nook

What made you decide to pursue a career in culinary arts?
My East Texas and SW Louisiana family means – food is already a part of everything. I learned to cook fairly complicated items at a young age, and when you’re food insecure in undergraduate and graduate school, you fall back quickly on those talents to make food plentiful and affordable. When I was corporate, we had a running joke in technology when things in a meeting got serious, “We’re not curing cancer, we’re not putting shoes on children, we’re not feeding babies.” But after a few years of that, I started to ask, ‘But what if we were?” And after 18 years, that’s what I decided to do – take my career in business and product planning, launching, and operations to another arena.

Who was your biggest culinary influencer or mentor? How did that person impact your culinary journey?
My biggest influencers on the journey so far – are a few. Certainly my chef instructors have been great. Chef Greg Dishman is a master of operational efficiency and skill. Chef Uyen Pham is a master of practical application with creative finesse. Chef Pablo Guerrero is master of technique with beauty. Chef Mark Paul is the master of consistency and brings it to the audience, every time. All of them I hope reflect through the different aspects of what we do.

What’s the best piece of culinary advice you’ve received or given?
Received: Keep your station clean. Hit the window, keep it inside the plate. Make it nice.
Given: Have quality in all you do.

Describe a way you support other women in the culinary industry? What resources do you use?
As a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier – Austin Chapter, we strive to continuously support women in culinary through our group efforts – whether individual members and their businesses; through our scholarships and grants; through bringing other women into our programming; opening our workshops and events to other women in culinary to learn and meet the women making a difference in Central Texas through food, beverage, and hospitality. As a board member of Naturally Austin, we do the same there, with our Women in CPG programming and our M/O programming focused on finding and developing BIPOC CPG food entrepreneurs and businesses. Lastly, The Cook’s Nook itself hosts and sponsors talks for women and girls on food+tech and ownership, and how powerful it can be.

Staff

Ann Derrick-Escoffier Career Services Director, Austin CampusAnn Derrick – Director of Career Services

Who was your biggest professional influencer or mento? How did that person impact your professional journey?
I cannot limit my ‘biggest professional influencer’ to a single person because there were several entrepreneurial individuals that I gained a wealth of knowledge, core values and corporate experience through at Pervasive Software. I went from being a temporary staff to receiving six promotions within 5 years, participated in the Initial Public Offering (IPO), travelled 70% nationwide and won two international trips (Bahamas and South Africa) for being in the Top 10% of Worldwide Sales. Pervasive Software opened my entrepreneurial eyes and where my professional journey in Corporate America began.

What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve received or given?
The CEO of Pervasive Software during my tenure there, truly believed in hiring risk-takers with an entrepreneurial spirit. His philosophy was empowerment, inclusiveness and encouraged each one of us to “think outside of the box.” Although he shared many gems of professional advice, he was adamant about grooming every team member for their next position and/or for leadership roles. I’ve drawn on many of those tips throughout my career.

Describe a way you support other women in the (culinary) industry – or professionally? What resources do you use?
Over the past 6 years of working at Escoffier, I’ve had the honor of supporting so many amazing women in the culinary industry. It’s often easier to have goals, dreams or vision board, but no clear direction on how to progressively move them forward. It is imperative that I provide a platform, especially for women, to be heard, acknowledged, and empowered. I never want anyone to feel their goals/dreams/visions are unimportant or unattainable.

As a resource, I take pride in providing:
• honesty and transparency through communication
• assistance in creating a Plan of Action (POA)
• partnership throughout the journey

Honestly, I use a lot of the sales techniques, tools and relationship management skills that I developed over the years stemming as far back as Pervasive Software. It is imperative that I am approachable, a good listener, reliable…a trustworthy person!

What do you love most about your role at Escoffier?
I absolutely love being a part of the Escoffier family! Every day, I have the honor of connecting with students, alumni and being the trusted advisor for our employer partners. I literally impact the lives and careers of our students every single day…what an honor!!

Joanna La Corte-Vice President AdmissionsJoanna La Corte – Vice President of Admissions

Who was your biggest professional influencer or mentor? How did that person impact your professional journey?
My biggest professional influencer was male. He was my boss (Campus President) at a previous job. It was not about what he was teaching me. It was about how he taught me. Without knowing he created an underlying trust and a safe space to share my professional frustrations and provided me with a platform to grow. He had a lot of experience so almost any scenario I brought up wanting to discuss he had experience with. He taught me to stop to think about things before reacting, and to understand the consequences (negative and positive) that my reactions could have. To this day I think about all I learned from him every day, consciously and unconsciously!

What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve received or given?
The best piece of advice I have ever received is “you can only control yourself”. You cannot change other people. You can only change yourself and how you react to situations. If you think you can change others you are wasting unnecessary energy when you can invest that energy in yourself. You have the power of adapting to any situation. You are in control of yourself.

Describe a way you support other women in the industry-or professionally. What resources do you use?
I have been in the education industry for 15 years and have experienced many situations that I can speak to. I am happy to give advice to the women around me. People believed in me and helped me develop to the next level and I want to pay it forward. As far as what resources do I use? I like to think the answers are already in us and sometimes you just need extra guidance to pull out those answers.

What do you love most about your role at Escoffier?
I love our culture. We are like a great big family, very supportive and collaborative. We are all willing to help each other as we have the same goals. This is the first company I work for where we are constantly mentioning and living by our core values and that makes a difference. I don’t wake up in the morning feeling like I am going to work, I am going to “my career”!

Faculty

Gina Marano-Escoffier InstructorGina Marano – Lead Instructor, Food & Beverage Operations

What made you decide to pursue a career in hospitality?
I originally began my education in the sciences, but soon realized that while I enjoyed the content I missed the interaction with people that occurred in the hospitality industry. I started working in the restaurant industry in high school and had grown addicted to the fast-paced, ever-different shifts. Once I began realizing that most of my time in the sciences would be spent in a laboratory I knew I needed to make a change. After that, I switched my major to hospitality and moved to Las Vegas to attend UNLV. I figured it was time to go big or go home and what bigger place to go for hospitality than Las Vegas! I’ve loved every minute of it, and love passing my knowledge and experience on to students.

Who was your biggest professional influencer? How did that person impact your professional journey?
My biggest professional mentor was male. He never made me feel like I needed to be anything different to be successful, just because I’m a woman. He always encouraged me to ensure that I gave my all at whatever I was trying for, and that that would be what made me successful. I have grown confident in my knowledge and experience, that it doesn’t matter what gender I am, or what my gender my colleagues are – being the best I can be at my job is what matters.

What’s your favorite part about your current position?
My favorite part about my current position is being able to design courses that are industry-relevant and valuable for our students, and constantly looking at ways we can improve the content/delivery of our existing courses. Being able to set our students up for success with courses that are clear, relevant, and full of what they will need/encounter in the industry is so rewarding!

If you could, what advice would you give yourself five years ago?
There’s nothing to lose by trying. I think so often we’re all hesitant about whether we’d be successful in a new position, a new company, a new career but there’s nothing to lose by trying. Some of the best experiences in my life have come from just giving something my best shot even if I was hesitant. Once you dive in there and start giving it your all you may be surprised at how much you like a new path – and how good you are at it! I had many hesitations beginning my doctorate program, but I gave it my all and found what I’d like to do with the rest of my life: education and teaching!

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