Girl on Fire
When I arrived in Los Angeles to represent Mann Packing as a sponsor of the 23rd annual Women Chefs & Restaurateurs Conference a few weeks ago, I’ll admit I felt a bit intimidated. The idea of being in the same room as such rock stars as Top Chef’s Elizabeth Faulkner, Dominique Crenn (recently crowned World’s Best Female Chef), and Barbara Lazaroff of Spago left me feeling quite inadequate. Don’t get me wrong – I’m quite decent behind the stoves – but these ladies are legends!
When WCR president Ruth Gresser got up to give her intro remarks to the standing-room only crowd, however, my nervousness faded. Gresser stressed the organization’s commitment to being “collaborative, compassionate, and resourceful” as it strives to help female chefs and restaurateurs achieve success.
Embracing change, becoming self-advocates and bringing balance to the workplace were central themes of this year’s conference, which was attended by over 300 chefs and restaurateurs. So too was gender equality. In her keynote speech, Border Grill owner and one of WCR’s founders Mary Sue Milliken pointed out, “Definitely the needle has moved forward, but there’s still plenty of work to do.”
The importance of supporting women-owned businesses is something Mann Packing can certainly relate to. The company became a Certified WBE in 2012, and is now one of the largest in a handful of women-owned produce companies.
“The Woman Owned logo is particularly relevant because the main target audiences for our fresh vegetable products are moms – just like us,” says our CEO Lorri Koster. “It’s rewarding to provide healthy solutions for busy moms – we know what a juggle life can be!”
The WBENC certification has also been a smart business move. “Being a certified WBE has allowed us to stand out from our competition,” says Koster. “You have to have the quality and service customers are looking for, and being certified gives us that extra edge.”
I am proud to work for a company that recognizes – like WCR – the importance of women helping other women. Attending the conference not only reinforced this concept, but inspired me to elevate my game a couple of notches.