Held earlier this month in Chicago, the 2018 James Beard Awards were a watershed. The nominees were 40% women and, in categories featuring individual chefs, women and people of color won 11 of 16 possible awards. In a time when headlines about the restaurant industry are dominated by accounts of rampant sexual misconduct and calls for change, this year's awards indicate an overdue but positive step forward.
Another reason to feel hopeful about the future can be found in the S.Pellegrino Rising Star Chef category. In order to qualify, nominated chefs had to be under 30 and "likely to make a significant impact on the industry in years to come." This next generation of chefs was recognized for their food, but they also care deeply about the atmosphere and culture of their kitchens. This marks a crucial evolution for a world that has notoriously rewarded angry chefs, where toxic masculinity is the norm, and where more sexual harassment claims are filed than in any other industry.
Ahead, we interviewed three of the Rising Star finalists — winner Camille Cogswell, Sarah Rinkavage, and Claire King — about competing in a female-dominated award category, their signature dishes, and why a kind, nurturing management style yields the best food.
Travel and accommodations were provided to the author by S.Pellegrino for the purpose of writing this story.