Hey, we're all sophisticated eaters here, right? We've gone way beyond the trope that steamy restaurant kitchens are the exclusive domain of men, that you have to be a testosterone-fueled male to succeed in the environment of sharp knives and sharper elbows, right? That the place of a woman, if she has a place in a restaurant kitchen at all, is at the pastry station, right?
These days, no quarter is asked (or given) by or to women on the front lines. For one thing, genuine culinary talent, regardless of gender, is too rare to waste on internecine squabbles.
The issue was settled locally, over the past decade, by a long line of Seattle's leading lights, behind the stove, at the door, in the vineyard. Names like superstar culinary consultant Kathy Casey, chefs Lisa Dupar, Holly Smith and Lisa Nkamura, culinary event producer Jamie Peha, gelato queen Maria Coassin. The list goes on: after these, another 60 women, all chefs, owners, writers, publicists. Together, they've raised and donated half a million dollars to help educate the women of the next generation.
The Seattle women are part of an international organization called Les Dames d'Escoffier, named for the Frenchman who wrote the book for modern kitchens.
Today half a dozen culinary schools in Washington have endowments established by Les Dames. Their graduates are more than line cooks and hose pullers; they're the exec chefs of tomorrow.
Case in point: Lisa Nakamura, scholarship winner in 1995, which permitted her to finish school and get a job as a prep cook with Lisa Dupar Catering. She moved to California, where she worked with Thomas Keller, then back to Seattle to run the kitchen at Qube in Belltown, on to Bin Vivant in Kirkland, and finally buying her own restaurant Orcas Island (the former Christina's), which she renamed Alium. Opening an ice-cream shop called Lilly. Writing a book called Bucky. (Have to say: there's no better 800-word description of what a chef is--and is not--than this.)
Nakamura's hardly the only one, just the most prominent, so far. Between two and ten talented women a year benefit.
Getting to the point: Les Dames is holding its annual fund-raiser on Thursday, September 27th, at the Pike Brewery. (Co-owner Roseanne Finkel is a member of Les Dames.) The dinner is called "Fish Tails and Pike Ales," and is, among other things, a short-course on seafood. It will begin. at 5:30, with crab legs, oysters and charcuterie appetizers. Three main courses: cod wraps, crab chowder, and Alaska salmon. Dessert is fish-shaped cookies with chocolate stout gelato.
Tickets cost $75 and can be purchased online. Proceeds will fund culinary scholarships, outreach programs and sustainable-agriculture projects in Washington. You won't find a worthier cause, or better company.