The James Beard Foundation is accepting applications for its “2016 Women in Culinary Leadership Grant” program through January 20. Launched in 2012, the WICL Grant was spearheaded by Susan Ungaro, president of the James Beard Foundation, and Rohini Dey, JBF trustee and founder/owner of Indian-Latin Vermilion Restaurants in New York City and Chicago. The goal of the mentoring program for aspiring chefs and restaurateurs is to help build in-depth leadership and management skills both in the kitchen and in restaurant management and entrepreneurship. The program, which has grown consecutively over the last three years, has 22 positions available for the class of 2016 offered by 19 mentors.
“Thanks to the top industry leaders who have signed on to fund and mentor these talented women, we are paving the way for each grant recipient to achieve the success they deserve as chefs or restaurateurs,” Ungaro says. “Women make up less than 7 percent of the head chef positions in the culinary industry; our Foundation strives to reverse this statistic with the Women in Culinary Leadership program, which has already successfully graduated six grantees from our class of 2014–2015.”
Women with a background in hospitality or the culinary arts are encouraged to apply for a chance to participate across eighteen six-month or three twelve-month mentor/grantee programs with top industry leaders. The deadline to apply is January 20, 2016, and candidates will be expected to start their grant program by June 1, 2016.
“The WICL Grant was created to break through the barriers of what I call the ‘gastro ceiling’ – a paucity of women as executive chefs and even fewer as leading restaurateurs,” adds Dey. “This program is about building women’s operational skills, financial literacy, confidence, and networks in the field. We started with one grantee at Vermilion, building it to seven positions last year, and now it has grown in our third year to 19 eminent restaurant groups. Mentors are not only sponsoring our WICL grantees, but are taking them into their organizations to train them and build their skills.”
Eight female chefs have received the Women in Culinary Leadership Grant to date, and of the six who have graduated all have received job offers from their mentors. Recipients have trained and worked in various positions, including the kitchen line, inventory, sourcing, cost control, new menu development, marketing and promotion, event planning, catering, floor management, and more.
Alexandra Hare, 2015 Women in Culinary Leadership Grantee states, “By going through these past six months of WICL training, and seeing not only that I can do this, but learning from the people who already do, I am actually building towards achieving the goals I've set for myself. This program has been the start of something great, which means I have to keep pushing–something I feel like I'm finally prepared for.”
Arranged mentorships must be taken at times mutually agreed upon by the applicant and hosts. All mentorships must be completed within one year after they are awarded. Grantees will receive a stipend of $500 per week for living expenses. In addition, select grantees will have the opportunity to work alongside guest chefs cooking at the historic James Beard House for one week.
Applicants must be at least 21 years of age, and have at least two years of experience in the hospitality industry.