Food culture is a thriving, fast-paced, thrilling, delicious part of life in Sydney. It's also one where men are typically championed—the chefs, the publicans, restauranteurs, bartenders and baristas that front up the food scene in our city.
There is, however, a strong collection of women driving Sydney’s greatest and most innovative dinners, drinks, venues and good nights out. We went behind the scenes to ask them about the ride—the challenges behind the bar and in the kitchen, but also what they're excited about in 2019 and moving into the future of food.
Here are six female forces in food and drink that are shaping a more exciting dining culture in Sydney, every damn day.
Paige Aubort is an award-winning bartender and the founder of the Coleman's Academy—a not-for-profit that exists to hero women in hospitality. Of the challenges she's faced behind the bar, she admits the "boys club" has been all too real, but says her greatest challenge was more inward. "The self-doubt, the imposter syndrome, the perfectionism to want to do everything so spot on to prove that I, or we as a gender, deserve to be here."
She says 2019 is a pretty "fucking exciting" time for women generally. "We’ve spent so many years trying to liken ourselves to the world around us, however, that time is quickly fading away and instead is replaced by opportunities and platforms to step forward and truly be ourselves. Loud, confronting, powerful, kind, whatever it may be."
"The growing and nurturing community of female bartenders, managers, owners, distillers and sommeliers is explosive and it's genuinely heartwarming. The women in this industry are strong, compassionate, empathetic, magnetic women and they’re very quickly learning their value because we continue to push each other."
Chiara Danieli is currently the sommelier at Matteo Downtown, one of the most exciting new restaurant and bar openings to hit Sydney's CBD in 2018. She's excited that women are being taken more seriously, and are allowed to be themselves on the restaurant floor too.
"A great number of Michelin star restaurants 10-15 years ago did not employ women," Danieli says. "Women also weren’t often taken seriously by customers, just because they had a pretty face or weren’t wearing a tie." Now though, Danieli says women occupy leadership roles and taboos about workwear are shifting, which is important. "We can wear make-up and have colourful nails and look hot in our work clothes!" she explains. "I know that this sounds silly, but to be able to freely express yourself is so important to keep your confidence up."
"There are so many more women in kitchens now!" says Danielle Alvarez, the head chef and creative visionary behind Fred's. "I think this shows a real shift in how restaurant culture has moved away from a place of extremes where bullying, ego, abuse and arrogance are tolerated and even encouraged, to a place of respect, decency, support and sustainability. This is a total credit to the new generations of kitchen leaders who dared to do things differently without compromising on product."
As for what she's excited about in 2019, she says it's truly "believing that there is nothing holding me back from what I want to achieve. It’s a great time to be a woman!"
Yuki Thomas is the founder of Soulara, a plant-based, chef-made meal delivery service saving time-poor Sydney people from poor meal choices. "Personally, having gone from being a corporate employee to leading a business, especially being younger, a lot of people don’t take you seriously," she says. "I’ve had to learn to trust my own voice and stand behind my decisions, despite being second-guessed."
She believes in 2019, "we’re seeing more acknowledgment of women’s educated and intelligent decisions. This opens doors and creates opportunities to build the kind of career you want."
Head chef at Efendy, Ozge Donmezoglu grew up in Turkey and says she feels super lucky to have "worked with a few of the best female head chefs in Istanbul and in Sydney" despite kitchens being dominated by men.
"Last Tuesday I read an article on Australia's nine most influential female entrepreneurs and I promised myself to be on that list one day," she adds. "In 2019, I hope I will take the first step towards that."
For Natasha Capol, who's the bar manager at Ms.G's, there are exciting times ahead for women in the food and drink world. "None of that 'a woman could never do this job,' or 'this is no place for a lady'. Hospitality will become an industry where the hard exterior will be broken down and the culture will shift to that of balance and a greater sense of care and attention that comes with this shift."
Here are another 12 inspiring women creating change across the world.
Image credit: Paige Aubort, supplied.