The Women of Food
Published: July 29, 2014
The culinary world can be a bit of a boys club. From chefs, bartenders and owners to folks on the production side—farmers, ranchers, fishmongers—Y-chromosomes abound. However, many members of the fairer sex, empirically less prone to attention-grabbing social media confrontations and wont to wear many hats, are making their marks on the Alamo City gastronomic landscape and they’re making them last. From Hot Joy/Hot Mess sweetheart Jennifer Dobbertin and pop-up pioneer Tim the Girl to bartender Elisabeth “Speed Rack Texas” Forsythe and beef purveyor Susana Canseco, women are shattering the sugar glass ceiling of San Antonio’s culinary sphere. We talked to three more female badasses on what they love about food, and the struggle of making it in SA.
Originally hailing from Houston, chef Kat Sees heads up the pastry program at Hot Joy and previously worked as the pastry chef at Cured. Appropriately, the chef’s favorite food is a sweet treat: “I love to make and eat pie! It’s my favorite dessert.”
Did you always know you wanted to work in the culinary industry?
I did always know I wanted to be a chef, but it was a long journey to get here. In high school I wanted to apply to the CIA [Culinary Institute of America] in Hyde Park but my parents were opposed to me obtaining a [technical degree]. They felt if I had a “real” degree I would be more successful in life. So alas, I went to University of Texas—San Antonio for art. I was extremely unhappy in my college years. It certainly was a push to finish school. Once I was through with school I immediately applied to Le Cordon Bleu in Austin, and the rest is history.
On her professional trajectory:
I’ve been out of school for two years now. I was in Austin for a good portion of it. The culinary field in Austin is extremely competitive, and a lot of the jobs are based on personality as opposed to your skill set. I was passed up at some well-known places based on that and eventually something had to give, so I came to San Antonio.
My good friend was the pastry chef at Restaurant Gwendolyn and had found another job but needed a replacement. I was the obvious choice. After two weeks of staging I finally won [chef Michael Sohocki’s] approval. Mike is one of the best chefs I’ve ever worked for and I’m grateful for being a part of that restaurant.… [He] opened up so many doors for me in San Antonio.
What has been the most difficult part of your experience in the SA culinary scene?
Disrespect towards women in the restaurant. To see a woman in charge is intimidating … and often times they retaliate, whether it be sexual harassment or hazing. You have to develop a thick skin in order to move up. I’ve learned to not take any of it to heart. The more you let that affect, the more it’s going to stifle you. However, female chefs in this town are few and far between. It’s easier to stand out and make a name for yourself because of that fact.