On season one of Chef's Table, Dan Barber, the mastermind behind the famous Blue Hill at Stone Barns, noted that we live in a time when chefs have become celebrities. Between shows like the aforementioned Chef's Table and Top Chef and food crazes brought on by creations like cronuts and sushi burritos, we are as familiar with names like Dominique Ansel and David Chang and Marcus Samuelsson as we are with those of celebrities that front our favorite magazines. And while I would willingly watch the now-thrice-mentioned Chef's Table (I may be a fan) over and over again until the next new season comes out, I cannot help but reflect on the fact that there are significantly fewer women chefs with the same degree of recognition or visibility.
It's a not-so-little-known fact that the food and liquor industries are still dominated by men. It's doubtlessly due in part to the gender bias that continues to prevail in many kitchens that there are considerably fewer April Bloomfields and Nancy Silvertons (who, by the way, gave Barber his first job—which she also quickly fired him from for his then-lack of baking skills) that dominate our screens and delight us with their presence. With this in mind, we wanted to highlight 30 incredible women who are behind some of our favorite restaurants, bottled beverages, and pastries. Some are well-known, some have started food trends (hello, poke and kombucha), and some you need to put on your radar ASAP. We love them, and we think you will too. Ahead, their stories.
Elisa Marshall, founding partner, event planner, and baker at maman
The many passions of Elisa Marshall led her to come up with the inspirations for maman, one of New York City's most Instagrammable bakeries, currently boasting four locations. Despite growing up baking and loving food and "attached to my mom’s hip in the kitchen from a very young age," Marshall studied fashion design in school and ended up working as a buyer and merchandiser, eventually falling in love with event planning. After working a nine-to-five in fashion PR and doing wedding planning and baking on evening and weekends, she decided that she needed a job that incorporated it all. After she couldn't find one, she created her own by opening maman.
How did you manage to incorporate baking into your PR and event planning jobs?
I started interning with an amazing wedding planner in Montreal and loved that experience. While doing that, I noticed there was so much demand for amazing custom sweets, sweet tables, candy buffets, and wedding cakes; everyone would ask my opinion on suppliers, and from what I saw was out there, I knew I could do it—and better. Eventually, I started referring myself for everything! From there, I co-founded with a friend an event catering company which was very successful.
How did you come up with maman?
I was fortunate to meet Ben, my partner in life and now in business. He had a corporate and finance background—and all the talent and skills I lacked—and was passionate about the industry, and dreamed of opening a place of his own as well. The timing and pieces all aligned perfectly, as did our skills and talents.
Maman is visually very beautiful. Was that an important factor to you?
Apart from the food, the aesthetic was the most important factor to me. I like to think that is what makes maman unique, and that there is so much detail, soul, and attention that goes into the environment as opposed to just being another coffee shop. I was noticing a huge trend in 'hipster cool' anti-brand cafes that, to me, were cold and uninviting. I wanted to create a warm environment where everything is beautiful, carefully curated, and there's LOTS of attention to details. Somewhere inviting and cozy and reminding you of home. I love details, and to me, it’s the little things that are the most special; from the details on the cups to the perfect bows tied on the sandwiches, that is what makes us unique, memorable, and unlike the others.
What does your perfect breakfast look like?
Coffee, lots of coffee—in pretty cups, of course—followed by eggs Benedict or a delicious breakfast sandwich.