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New L.A. group aims to help female-owned restaurants with 10-day festival

Chefs Kim Prince, left, Lien Ta and Mary Sue Milliken
Chefs Kim Prince, left, Lien Ta and Mary Sue Milliken are part of a new women’s organization called RE:Her.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times; Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times; Border Grill)

“We all have capes on,” Kim Prince said . “I tell all these female restaurant owners, don’t tuck your capes in. Wear them out and let them fly.”

The owner of Hotville Chicken at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw mall is part of a new all-female Los Angeles organization called Regarding Her, or RE:Her. The group is creating a growing network of female chefs and restaurateurs to support one another with mentorship and resources. The newly formed 501(c)(3) has about 80 members, including All Day Baby, Akasha, Playa Provisions, Kismet, Porridge + Puffs, Socalo, Meals by Genet and Ronan. RE:Her plans to host a 10-day festival in January to coincide with the anniversary of the Women’s March on Jan. 21.

“All these women are heroes to me,” Prince said. “I’m so touched to be in an organization where we all have the same struggles; it doesn’t matter what skin color you have, where you come from or if you have Michelin stars under your belt. The pandemic hit everybody the same way.”

RE:Her grew out of the Let’s Talk female restaurant group founded by Vermilion restaurant owner Rohini Dey in Chicago earlier this year. Dina Samson, co-owner of Rossoblu, and Mary Sue Milliken, co-owner of the Border Grill and Socalo, were part of the 250-plus female restaurant owners who participated in a series of video call discussions for Let’s Talk. During one of the sessions, the L.A. members, including All Day Baby owner Lien Ta, decided to start their own local group and call it RE:Her.

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“We are excited to illuminate the women that have made Los Angeles so vibrant for a long time in the restaurant realm,” said Ta, who serves as the organization’s committee lead. “Obviously lots of restaurants are in need of help right now, so we’re taking things into our own hands.”

With Open Table on board as the group’s first sponsor, Ta said RE:Her can start building out the festival, which is scheduled to run Jan. 21-30. It hopes to have multiple chef collaborations throughout the city, including a “Taco Tuesday” event on Jan. 26 with Prince and Milliken. Prince said she plans to make a version of the hot chicken taco she offers on her secret menu at Hotville. The “taHotcos” are made the way Prince says her mother makes tacos, with a corn tortilla dropped in the deep fryer until it’s both crisp and chewy. She stuffs the shells with chopped hot chicken or fish, kale slaw, spicy ranch dressing and shredded cheddar cheese.

“I hope this encourages people to cross a line and go to a different ZIP Code to eat,” Prince said. “I’m looking forward to being a guest too and trying these amazing restaurants that these women own.”

Food writer Ruth Reichl has signed on to host a video call discussion during the festival, and the Now Serving cookbook shop in Chinatown also has agreed to host a series of talks.

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In the absence of federal government help designated specifically for restaurants, RE:Her also is developing a cash grant program. Ta said the program will involve an application process and that any female operator of a bricks-and-mortar restaurant in L.A. County will be eligible to apply.

The date of the festival is meant to coincide with a time that’s notoriously slow for restaurants.

“The whole point of this is we are trying to drive business to these restaurants, especially during a historically slow time of the year,” said Ta, who cites post-holiday cleanses and possible overspending during the holidays as reasons behind sluggish sales in January. “We’ve seen such a decline in sales through this pandemic, we can’t even imagine what January is going to look like, especially because we don’t think outdoor dining will be back.”

RE:Her plans to lock in more collaboration events in the coming weeks and is looking to recruit additional members to participate. Restaurants have until the end of December to confirm their programming. Information can be found at regardingherfood.com.


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