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On the Line: Finding female chefs in San Antonio

Photo: Photos by Josh Huskin, License: N/A

Photos by Josh Huskin

Brooke Smith runs a tight ship at the Esquire Tavern

Photo: , License: N/A

Jame Arias and Fanny Valdez with their 36-foot-long RV kitchen


Alcorta is also trying to help her metaphorical sisters out by taking on female culinary students working as externs.

“Some culinary schools don’t prepare students for the real world,” Alcorta said of the air conditioned, highly functional classroom kitchens. “A lot of students come into their externships and they’re in a 500-square-foot line, it’s sweaty, [the] oven’s funny—it’s easy to get discouraged.”

Yes, there are 15-hour bad days when sleep-deprived cooks don’t get a chance to sit down or have a meal, and as Alcorta put it, students might hate their lives for the first two to three weeks on the job, but those extra man hours will pay off.

As San Antonio continues building its reputation as a culinary destiny (baby steps, folks), Johnson-Kossick and other Les Dames members are hoping to help make the scene that much more female-friendly.

“I see a real need in our industry for students to have a good role model… of female chefs handling stress, realities of the job and not mistreating themselves,” said Johnson-Kossick, who’s planning to host a fundraising dinner with Les Dames at NAO this fall to encourage co-mingling of established industry females and students. Johnson-Kossick, a single mom of two, hopes to build a sisterhood that champions female chefs.

She noted, “Because there are so few of us, it’s almost like we each have a social responsibility to be good mentors and make time and help guide other females. Be allies.”

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