Over the course of eight weeks, The Women of Food visited seven cities, and invited thirteen chefs, collaborators, and purveyors to participate in this female-led movement. Together, they used the platform to talk about what it means to be a woman in a male-dominated industry; they gave speeches on building teams, creating safe spaces for creative work, and equipping the next generation with the tools and confidence to succeed.
And yet, the true connective force at each dinner was that each woman had a story to tell. These are the chefs who shaped The Women of Food, and these are their stories.
It’s a sunny evening on Virgil Ave in Silver Lake, and the private dining room at perpetual hotspot Sqirl is buzzing.
Jessica Koslow, its chef and owner, is in the kitchen with chef Gabriela Cámara. The duo is cooking together, preparing for the July opening of their Santa Monica restaurant, Onda. Cámara places marinated slices of raw Baja tuna on crispy tostadas as Koslow slices avocados for the finishing layer. As they buzz about the kitchen, a dialogue begins to unfold. “Not only between two cooks but two cultures, two cities,” Cámara says, acknowledging that their collaboration is a microcosm for a broader discussion. “LA and Mexico City have so much more in common than we usually think,” she adds.
Diners are shuffling in and taking their seats at tables adorned with California oranges and citrus-colored flowers, mingling with bright green micheladas in hand. Those who have dined at Contramar or Cala recognize Cámara’s signature tuna tostada; likewise, the bowls of Koda Farms crispy rice laced with yuba en adobo, cucumber, and herbs are a clear nod to Koslow’s repertoire. It’s a first taste of how the duo is “digging into a new food language,” as Koslow puts it.
Pointedly, the fusion by the two chefs to develop an entirely new expression of cuisine makes a statement that, together, we can draw on each other’s strengths to develop something beautiful and unique. “We want to make a cohesive menu that will be reminiscent of what Jessica and I have [championed individually], but also [incorporates] dishes that work well on their own and with the other dishes at Onda,” Cámara states.
As diners take bites of seared red snapper, served in a preserved yuzu marinade with charred sweet potatoes and chile mecco salsa, Cámara distributes freshly-made heirloom corn tortillas.
“I hope that [the meal] is fun and delicious, and that it will give people the desire to come when [Onda] opens,” Koslow shares. It’s clear she has nothing to worry about, but even beyond the dinner, these two veteran chefs have established a new playbook for collaboration in the industry: “I think we learned that we have a similar idea of what we’re trying to do, which is put on the table dishes that are substantive, that are craveable, that are in conversation between the two cities and our two minds, and we’re just hitting the tip of the iceberg,” she adds.