Long before they took on their roles in shaping the future of the restaurant industry, these female leaders were on the line and in the weeds. Here are the sage words of wisdom given to them earlier in their careers that still resonate today.


“My first wine teacher and now friend, Patrick Rigourd, taught me that wine was made in a vineyard by a man. Wine was not elitist, wine was to be shared. He taught me that building a great relationship with the winemakers was the way to understand their wines.“

Pascaline Lepeltier, Meilleur Ouvriers de France, Master Sommelier & Managing Partner of Racines NY in New York, NY

"My former chef, Carrie Nahabedian, at Naha & Brindille gave me two pieces of important advice: ‘Cook beautiful food’ and ‘Dedication, passion and being reliable will get you a long way.’"

Jessica Nowicki, Chef de Cuisine at Safta in Denver, CO

“Christian Delouvrier told me something I will never forget about FOH and BOH service. He said that a diner could go to the best food restaurant in the world, with the best chef. But if the service is poor or they don't feel accommodated, they will never go back, no matter how good the food is. You can serve that same diner mediocre food out of any kitchen and if they are made to feel special, appreciated and important, they will come back every time. There is not necessarily a division between the front and back. The two must work in tandem.“

Roxanne Spruance, Executive Chef & Owner of Kingsley in New York, NY

“Lead by example. It’s one of the oldest sayings in the book, but it’s for a good reason. Don’t expect anyone to follow you if you don’t walk the talk.“

Sara Fetbroth, General Manager of Oleana Restaurant in Cambridge, MA

"One of the greatest things I learned from working for Daniel Boulud was generosity. He is so generous, not only with his guests and team but with his vendors and creative partners. There is a lot that you can gain from being open and generous with the people around you rather than being closed off and super nervous about every single penny. Generosity also tends to pay significant dividends back to your business in the end."

Jen Pelka, Founder, CEO and Owner for Magnum PR and The Riddler in San Francisco, CA

“I learned some important lessons in my first job. I learned how to work efficiently in tiny spaces and create useful habits. Also, kitchen folk are a different breed, especially for a young female, and I learned how to interact with these cooks. I learned a lot about the ins and outs of being a female in a kitchen. One of the most important lessons: You need to rely on your skills, not your looks. In the end, I don't care how hot you are, if you can't cook with the best of the boys, you'll never be accepted."

Melissa Walnock, Lecturing Instructor and Pastry Chef at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY

“I think about two specific pieces of advice given to me all of the time. One was from a friend that knew I was going to start my externship at Restaurant Daniel. He told me “Keep your head down, and all you will ever need to say is: ‘Yes Chef!’.” Another one was from Georgette Farkas, our former PR Director, when I first made the transition into the corporate team. Her motto was "Never explain and never complain," meaning, don’t ever seem like you are making excuses, and complaining is just unproductive and just a bad look.“

AJ Schaller, Executive Chef of CREA in Sterling, VA