The James Beard Foundation (JBF) is accepting applications for its 2017 Women in Culinary Leadership (WCL) program. Launched in 2012, the WCL program was spearheaded by Susan Ungaro, president of the James Beard Foundation, and Rohini Dey, JBF trustee and founder/owner of Indian-Latin Vermilion Restaurants in NYC and Chicago. The goal of this intern mentorship program is to help aspiring chefs and restaurateurs build in-depth leadership and management skills either in the kitchen, or in restaurant management and hospitality. WCL has grown over the last four years, and for the class of 2017 there are 20 positions offered by 19 mentors.
“Our Foundation is committed to correcting the gender imbalance in the restaurant/culinary industry by cultivating, training and supporting women throughout their professional culinary careers,” said Susan Ungaro. “The WCL program has experienced tremendous growth in four years and we’re proud to have 19 distinguished mentors signed on for our 2017 program.”
“We created the WCL program to shatter the ‘gastro-ceiling.’ This program is about giving women the skills to lead, the confidence to speak up, and the impetus to dream bigger,” said Rohini Dey.
“Our fundamental goal is to help more women stay the course, build grit, aspire for scale, lead kitchens, and become preeminent restaurateurs. Watching our mentees develop over the course of their programs has been immensely gratifying, and so has their job placements with mentors, validating the success of this model. We hope the industry will join us in spreading the word about this unique opportunity to all young women, especially given how timely this need is.”
Women with a background in hospitality or the culinary arts, and at least two years of relevant work experience are encouraged to apply for a chance to participate in an eight-month mentor program with top industry leaders. Apart from financially sponsoring his or her candidate, the mentor designs a development trajectory at inception, which evolves depending on the mentee’s performance and ability. Monthly written reports and calls with the James Beard Foundation are an additional forum to evaluate progress and to provide feedback and coaching to maximize the learning experience.
Mentees also learn from each other during monthly check-ins and from the extended WCL network. The highlight of the mentee experience is a one week stage at the James Beard House where they either cook with multiple renowned chefs, or work closely with the JBF staff. In addition, mentees are encouraged to enroll for financial literacy and business planning courses at a Women’s Business Center in their city.
The deadline to apply is Sunday, March 12, and candidates will be expected to start their intern program by June 30.