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Women Take The Lead In Maine Restaurant Kitchens

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Shannon Bard - Zapoteca, Portland.
Shannon Bard - Zapoteca, Portland.

Photos: Ted Axelrod except where noted

Women now make up 45 percent of the students enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America - a record number - so why aren't more of them in restaurant kitchens? This is the question asked by Rachel Forrest of Seacoastonline, who points out that in the current season of Top Chef Masters, five out of the original 12 chefs are women - but "that's not like real life"

In real life here on the Seacoast, and in many other communities, few women are head or executive chefs in a restaurant kitchen. There are some sous chefs, pastry chefs and caterers or personal chefs, but most head chefs here are men.Forrest cites the commonly held (and true) explanations - the "macho" kitchen environment and the fact that working long hours doesn't fit with raising children, so many women leave the business before they rise through the ranks to the top positions. In Maine, women chefs are a significant presence - James Beard award winner Melissa Kelly (Primo, Rockland) and James Beard award nominee Krista Kern Desjarlais (Bresca, Portland) immediately come to mind. We used Forrest's list from Southern Maine and N.H. to jump start our own - Maine restaurants where women command the top post; please let us know in the comments if anyone's missing.

Shannon Bard - owner/executive chef, Zapoteca, Portland
Melissa Bouchard - executive chef, DiMillo's on the Water, Portland
Krista Kern Desjarlais - owner/executive chef, Bresca, Portland
Lee Farrington - owner/executive chef, Figa, Portland
Erin French - owner/executive chef, Lost Kitchen, Belfast
Carmen Gonzalez - executive chef, Carmen's at The Danforth, Portland
Kate Grinnell-Miller Bricks Restaurant, Rockland
Abby Harmon - owner/executive chef, Caiola's, Portland
Eloise Humphrey - owner/executive chef, El Camino, Brunswick
Melissa Kelly - owner/executive chef, Primo, Rockland
Cheryl Lewis - executive chef, El Rayo Taqueria + El Rayo Cantina, Portland
Shanna O'Hea, owner/executive chef, Kennebunk Inn, Kennebunk
Chris Prunier, owner/executive chef, Relish, South Berwick
Michelle Ragussis - executive chef, The Pearl, Rockland
Cara Stadler - owner/executive chef, Tao, Brunswick
Keiko Suzuki - owner/executive chef, Suzuki's, Rockland
Lucia Velasco-Evans - owner/executive chef, Lucia's Kitchen, Cape Neddick
Melody Wolfertz - owner/executive chef, In Good Company, Rockland

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