The hospitality industry has always been cut-throat, especially for women, and more specifically for those behind the kitchen burners. Now that the gender conversation has exploded via the #MeToo movement, and with 2018 being proclaimed "The Year of the Woman," we at CT Bites choose to celebrate the influential and aspirational women among us.
With March 8 marking International Women’s Day, this seemed like the perfect time to announce our new series "It's A Women's World" featuring Connecticut female influencers who’ve blazed their own paths, often in food-related fields long dominated by men.
Whether farming the land, bringing healthy food to the masses, starting a public relations, gourmet foods or catering business or injecting feminism with food, these groundbreaking broads have set a new definition of women’s work, forging new paths and setting examples for those who follow.
This week we’re starting at the top—with Top Chef Silvia Baldini of New Canaan’s Strawberry and Sage, the first female chef in Fairfield County to win “Chopped.”
Stay tuned to see who’s next. And feel free to send suggestions for your candidates to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Silvia Baldini, Founder, Strawberry and Sage (www.silviabaldini.com or www.strawberryandsage.com)
Why She’s A Pioneer: She left a career as an art director on Madison Avenue to pursue her love of cooking, eventually becoming the first female chef in Fairfield County to win “Chopped.” That was in 2015 and Baldini, who grew up in Italy “cooking since age three,” has been on a roll (no pun intended) ever since. After 17 years in the advertising world, she pursued her culinary training at ICC in NYC and Cordon Bleu in London, and later worked at a series of Michelin-star kitchens in Europe.
While in London, she founded Strawberry and Sage, a food event company “cooking for the ladies in Kensington and Holland Park” before segueing it to New Canaan in 2010. Aside from her many multitasking duties – mom, Food Network chef (she’s competed in “Chopped Champions”), and as a frequent speaker at food industry events -- she has a cooking series on FabFitFun.com where she’s the lead chef, recipe developer and spokesperson for Realeats.com a new healthy meal delivery service specializing in local and organic produce. Simple recipes with good ingredients — lots of vegetables, proteins, vitamins and nutrients —remain at the core of what she preaches – and cooks. “If you take care of yourself from the inside with good food you will feel better and be healthier," she says.
On Being A Woman In A “Man’s World:” The advertising world prepared her to be “tough as a cookie,” so when she started cooking professionally she says she always took the high road. “You probably had to work a little harder to prove your worth,” she says. “But I was used to it.” Her expeirnce competing on “Chopped,” she says, was especially grueling but she stayed true to herself, “kept it clean, focused and simple and it just worked out.” Her winning recipe, by the way, was an Italian dessert called sweet canederli (think bread dumplings made with standard pantry ingredients).
What’s Next: She’s about to launch a new company called the Secret Ingredient Girls with Alina Lawrence, owner of Olivette, a boutique olive oil tasting room in Darien. The focus, says Baldini, is on sourcing wholesome ingredients that are good for you. She hopes to launch by mid-March, concentrating first on the New York and Connecticut markets.