TheWineBuzz — January/February 2012

Crowds may cheer for Paula Deen and Rachael Ray, but we bet you can’t count more than a couple of women chefs on your local restaurant scene, no matter where you live in Ohio. We hope that’s changing. We spoke to three pioneers about their culinary roots and where they see dining trends going.

What does it take to become a female chef? For starters, you might want to study philosophy.


City native Julie Francis opened her Mount Lookout restaurant, Nectar, in 2006 to focus on local and organic products. Her menus, including the acclaimed Dinner Club series and popular Sunday brunches, creatively showcase her commitment to fresh, seasonal food.

Photo by Courtney Tsitouris

Photo by Courtney Tsitouris

TWB: Where were you trained?

JF: I learned to cook on the job, working in restaurants in Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico.

TWB: Is it more difficult for a woman to become a chef than a man?

JF: There is some resistance to women leading in kitchens, but if you can prove you are able, that goes away.

TWB: What is your perspective on food today?

JF: I am most interested in finding quality sources of food for myself and the restaurant, by buying locally and seasonally. There’s so much available, but I want to avoid things like genetically modified ingredients and pesticides. I want to know how the animals are raised and what they are fed. I am also aware of people changing their eating habits for their health.

TWB: And the restaurant scene?

JF: What was once fast food, like burgers and hot dogs, are now on high-end restaurant menus. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I think it keeps people from trying new things.

TWB: What do you see as important changes that have already happened?

JF: There is more awareness of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free foods, and there are more restaurants that serve them.

TWB: Where do you see things going?

JF: Food costs will continue to increase and that will affect what restaurants will be able to serve.

TWB: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

JF: Still working in the world of food with maybe more of an emphasis on health and food.

TWB: If you could make a wish, what would it be?

JF: That Americans would eat less meat!

Interviewed by Annette Gallagher Weisman