Tallahassee women shine in our restaurant world

by Tallahassee Table

Women are certainly changing the dynamics of the hospitality industry locally and globally, but often chefs and restaurateurs don’t receive the recognition of their male counterparts and still face challenges in navigating the culinary world.

“There are still a lot of uphill challenges that females face in a male-dominated industry,” said Justine May, owner of the Railroad Square Craft House. “Sometimes I have to put my foot down harder and faster than a man in the same position. It’s a very male-dominated business.”

May finds that, even today, “people assume I married into this business or am dating someone who’s in the business. The stereotype still lingers, even with women.”

 “But I’m not afraid of a challenge.”

May is not alone.  In the spirit of Women’s History Month and the recent International Women’s Day (March 8), we’d like to spotlight the achievements and obstacles facing women  in a variety of fields. 

   As for the hospitality industry, the James Beard Foundation reports that 

  • Women founders get only 2 percent of venture capital dollars.
  • Women chefs earn 28 percent less base pay than their male counterparts.
  • Only 33 percent of restaurant businesses are majority owned by women.
  • Women represent only 19 percent of chefs and head cooks.

 In Tallahassee, at least three dozen women are entrepreneurs running their own restaurants or food trucks or are chefs playing a major role in a restaurant, aiming to crack the kitchen’s glass ceiling.  

Wondering how to support women in the Tallahassee dining world? In the spirit of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, we’ve compiled a list of women who are forging ahead. Toque hats off to them all. If we’ve missed someone please comment here or email [email protected]   

  •  Sophia Al-Siroa, owner of Sahara Greek and Lebanese Cafe.
  • Arkeba Bouie is the baker/owner of the new pastry shop, Decadent Delights.
  • Dondu Dogru, chef/co-owner of the new Blue Turkey restaurant.
  • Nora Getz, owner of La Tiendita with her husband Sid.
  • Yashica and Sheree Gilliam, owner of the new restaurant, Gilliam Sisters Soul Food.
  • Sylvia Gould, James Beard semifinalist and pastry chef at Kool Beanz Cafe.
  • Elizabeth Gwynn, chef/proprietor of Cypress Restaurant (open more than 20 years), Grove Market Cafe and Vertigo with husband David.
  • Nicole Holloway is co-owner of Mo-Betta BBQ with her husband, barbecue master Mo.
  • Lara Hooper, co-owner with chef Joe Richardson, of Lucilla cafe.
  • Chetana Kadam, owner of the restaurant Aaru’s, focusing on Indo-Chinese and South Indian delicacies.
  • Sisters Lyrica, Zaira and Nadira Leo, (with help from mom, Syrheda La Shae) are the young entrepreneurs behind Bourne Brilliant. They sell their homemade, organic plant-based food, pastries and teas.
  • Candy Hernandez and her daughter, Luvy Carballo cook traditional fare from El Salvador at their restaurant El Viroleño.
  • DeeDee Johnston and her daughters Debbie Johnston and Jennifer Poskey are the masterminds behind Hopkins Eatery extensive menu and desserts.
  • Mandy Lemons, owner of Table 23 with husband Joe.
  •  Jeri Bradley Madden, owner of Jeri’s Midtown Cafe, who has also teamed up with Midtown Reader (owned by another powerhouse, Sally Bradshaw) and Argonaut Cafe to provide snacks at the former Lucy & Leo’s coffee shop.
  • Justine May is the owner of Railroad Square Craft House, which serves food and spirits.
  • Rebecca Kelly-Manders owns the Street Chefs food truck and launched the @REfire Culinary program to assist those with felony convictions in obtaining employment.
  • Olean McCaskill, owner and operator of Olean’s Cafe for more than two decades.
  • Barbara McGarrah, who has been making brittle and homemade ice cream for 17 years Barb’s Gourmet Brittles.
  • Jessica Bright McMullen, chef/owner of KitchenAble Cooking School & Catering.
  • Magi Mekaiess, chef/owner of Cafe Yerushalmi, which seems to be Tallahassee’s only full-service kosher restaurant.
  • Barby Moro, managing partner and owner of RedEye Coffee. She’s also been recognized as one of the Essential Women in Tallahassee for 2020 by the Tallahassee Community College Women’s History Month committee.
  • Donna Mulsing has been the chef-owner of Reangthai for more than 20 years.
  • Treva Pasquarelli is the owner/chef at Treva’s Pastries and Fine Foods.
  • Nikki Pettineo, executive chef at Aramark, is also a culinary arts instructor.
  • Tasha Pizarrro owns the old-fashioned, neighborhood ice cream truck, Momma P’s.
  • Bridgette Rankin is the co-owner of Rankin Crunchy & Confused Tacos restaurant and food truck with her husband Roger.
  • Erika Rojas is the owner of Tally Arepas, Venezuelan food truck.
  • Susan Roth is co-owner of Andrews Downtown and Rootstock Pours + Plates with her husband, Paul, and Andrew Reiss.
  • Shacafrica Simmons, also known as Chef Shac, was a champion on the TV show, “Chopped,” is a caterer, private chef and does food coaching.
  • Ariel Sonnino is a co-owner of The Good Berry with Joan-Manuel Pouparina.
  • Susan Turner, owner of award-winning Food Glorious Food, who opened the restaurant in 1982 and has been the longest running woman-owned business in Tally, building FGF from a 30-seat to 200-seat venue. . Her partners now are chef Kevin and Michelle Stout, a Culinary Institute of America pastry chef. Susan is pictured with the herb garden at Food Glorious Food at the top of this story. Photo credit: Tallahassee Democrat file.
  • Jean Uthmeier, a home cook and baker, is just making her mark as the owner of the new La Florida Coffee & Wine Bar.
  • Rosalyn Wilsey, who recently launched the mobile coffee shop called Frother’s Daughter.
  • Jennifer Young, baker and owner of TC Bakery.

The photo at the top of the page: Penn[sylvania] on the picket line– 1917
Women of Protest: Photographs from the Records of the National Woman’s Party, 1875-1938

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kfhadhi April 13, 2021 - 5:15 pm

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Tallahassee Table April 14, 2021 - 1:19 pm

Thank you so much! I’m happy you liked the article. Appreciate your feedback, Rochelle


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