LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Busting through the glass ceiling and creating more female leaders in the restaurant and food service industry is the goal of a new hospitality initiative started here in Las Vegas.
It includes an all-star lineup of women, and they’re kicking off their efforts next week.
Nicole Brisson is widely considered one of the best chefs in Las Vegas. Most recently in charge of the enormous Eataly at Park MGM and executive chef at CarneVino in The Palazzo.
“I was the first youngest female executive on the strip when I became the executive chef of CarneVino at 25,” Brisson said. “That just kind of elevated my career.”
She’s enjoyed a rewarding career in a male-dominated industry, but her early years were shaped by female mentors.
“I didn’t have that confidence when I was 15-16 years old,” Brisson said. “But they saw something in me that really they believed in me and that made me more confident.”
Elevating women to become the next Nicole — or next catering manager — is the goal of the newly formed Women’s Hospitality Initiative. Half of all culinary graduates are women, but less than seven percent own restaurant businesses in the US.
“Maybe it was partly a boys club,” said Jolene Mannina of secretburger.com. “Maybe it was just that the woman didn’t have mentorship to know what to ask her and understand her value.”
The documentary — “A Fine Line” — showcases the struggle. The film will be screened at a culinary kick-off event for the initiative at UNLV. The group is bringing together industry leaders to create change.
“It’s not just the women coming together it is the entire community coming together to say, Hey, we stand behind our women, what are the things that we can do to implement this,” Mannina said.
Trailblazers like restaurateur Elizabeth Blau, James Beard award-winner Saipin Chutima and uber chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger are just a few trying to narrow the gender gap.
“Young women need to know that if you build a skill set, and if you network and you grow your repertoire. That’s how you forge forward in this industry,” Brisson said.
The kickoff is next Tuesday night with a screening and a panel discussion. Then a culinary celebration will follow, featuring more than fifty women chefs, mixologists and sommeliers at UNLV’s Hospitality Hall.
Tickets are available at secretburger.com.