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A Woman’s Place: Ruling the Kitchen

“The reality is that until there are more women as executive chefs,” says Barbara Lazaroff, “there will be less women hired in kitchens and less going into the restaurant industry.”

We’ve been reading so much lately about women chefs, it seems as if they’re everywhere. But the Year of the Woman has come and gone, and women in major kitchens are still rare.

Now a group of the country’s most influential female chefs and restaurateurs met last month in New York to announce the formation of the International Assn. of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs. L.A.'s Lazaroff, co-owner of Spago, Chinois on Main, Granita, etc. and Mary Sue Milliken of City Restaurant and Border Grill were there. So were Anne Rosenzweig of Arcadia and 21 in New York, Barbara Tropp of China Moon in San Francisco, Lidia Bastianich of Felidia in New York, Johanne Killeen of Al Forno in Providence--to name just a few.

The new organization hopes to encourage young women to go into the restaurant business--as chefs, managers, and maitre ‘ds. The group plans to offer educational assistance, job training, a networking system. Recognizing the realities of modern life, they also hope to implement a job-sharing program. In return, says Lazaroff, they promise “never to give each other awards.”

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And that’s not all. Another group of women met locally to announce the formation of a Los Angeles chapter of “Les Dames d’Escoffier International,” an organization of professional women with at least five years full-time experience in the food and hospitality industry.

This group has much the same goals as the other organization; it met last week to discuss equal opportunity for women professionals through education, networking, and mentorship programs.

“This is not a male-bashing group,” insists Lisa Trotter, district manager for Seagram’s Classics, and one of the group’s organizers. “It’s just that more and more women are going to chef’s school, and then are being hired in the lower positions--the pastry chefs, caterers. It’s the same in the wine industry. More women are being hired, but they are considered the wine bimbos, the ones sent out on the street to sell wine to male buyers. These are not women that are calling the shots.”

Lazaroff, who also attended that meeting, agrees. “It’s all well and good to go through a culinary program or hotel management school,” she says, “but when women get out in the real world so many of the people employing them are men. We need more women in positions to sign the checks. That’s when people listen to you.”

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A TREE GROWS IN CALABASAS: “We were trying to come up with something live,” says Marty Braverman. “We started out calling it Acacia Grill. That didn’t work because there was already a restaurant in Santa Barbara by that name. Then we went through a variety of other names--trees, flowers, plants. At one point we were going to call it Park View Grill.” Braverman finally settled on Cosmos Grill and Rotisserie as the name for the American-style restaurant he will open next month on site of the former Cafe Bernadette in Calabasas. “Cosmos is a California wild flower,” he says. “Everybody thinks its going to be a cosmopolitan restaurant, a Greek restaurant, or a space place.”

Braverman, who owns Louise’s on Larchmont and is a partner in the other Louise’s, compares Cosmos to the Italian chain. “It’s the same concept--large portions at moderate prices--but different food.”

The restaurant, which will seat 72 inside and 30 on the patio, has been completely remodeled. “I think this is going to be a turning point design-wise of anything that’s around here or in the Valley,” says Braverman. “It’s kind of a Westside restaurant that’s arrived in Calabasas.”

STOCKPOT: To familiarize customers with its Thai menu, Siamese Princess is offering two special menus: basic ( yum yai salad with chicken, pork, shrimp, pad Thai noodles, beef or chicken with mint and green chile and steamed Jasmin rice, $25 for two) and advanced (beef and lamb satay, Bangkok fisherman’s soup, red duck curry, Thai macaroni with seafood and steamed rice, $30 for two).


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