In an industry that’s traditionally dominated by men, Nancy Bean is letting the ladies shine this month, when she puts a spotlight on women in the food industry at the illustrious Nantucket Food and Wine Festival, where she is executive director.
Founded in 1996 to commemorate the local culinary scene, the festival now draws over 4,000 attendees to the island.
Over the course of events May 15 to May 19, two specifically celebrate women.
The Dames Dejeuner is an annual luncheon showcasing the talents of female chefs, vintners and sommeliers. Among the dozen and a half luminaries honored will be celebrity chef Elizabeth Falkner of Food Network fame, Karen Akunowicz of Fox & the Knife in South Boston, and Lydia Shire of Scampo in Beacon Hill. It’s already sold-out.
The signature La Fete wine dinner’s 2019 theme “Women in Whites” brings together trailblazing female guest chefs to create a unique culinary experience. Falkner will be cooking again, alongside Tracy Chang of PAGU in Cambridge, Maura Kilpatrick of Sofra Bakery & Café in Cambridge, and Cassie Piuma of Sarma in Somerville.
Falkner says she’s often been frustrated that the female talent around her isn’t being heard from.
“Historically, women have been in control, in many countries, of cooking. I’m thinking of Italy and Mexico, for example, places [where] women cook a lot of the food, from street food to family food to running the restaurants,” she says.
That’s not the case in Nantucket, this year.
Falkner and Bean agree that Nantucket Wine and Food Festival is a unique experience for the sense of community it generates among industry professionals.
Chefs, vintners and sommeliers are flown in from all around the world to live together on beautiful Nantucket Island for four days. With over 60 events, there are endless opportunities for the guests and talent to mingle, dine and enjoy each other’s company.
“You get to have a lot of interaction, and that’s a piece that’s pretty unique to Nantucket Wine and Food, the access to everyone,” says Bean. “The crazy talent that’s all collected together. We have these little houses, and we’ll have four wine makers living in a house, and they’re all from different parts of the world, and they become friends.”
“I love the camaraderie of chefs at all these festivals. It’s the only time we really get to see each other,” says Falkner. “It’s so fun to be able to cook with your colleagues and hang out a little bit and be in a beautiful place.”
Delicious food, fun and a little girl power, what’s not to love?