Richmond’s food scene has been trending for the better part of a year, and for good reason. On Thursday, June 6, we showcased some of the city’s top culinary talent and industry experts at our Women in Food panel—featuring Alex Graf of ZZQ, Carena Ives of Jamaica House Restaurant, Brittanny Anderson of Metzger Bar & Butchery and Brenner Pass, Liz Kincaid of RVA Hospitality (Tarrant’s, Tarrant’s West, Max’s on Broad, Little Saint, and Bar Solita), and Kelli Lemon of Urban Hang Suite.
Stephanie Ganz, author, foodie, and part of the brilliant minds behind The Apple Cart Company, led the conversation, diving into questions from media portrayals of the industry to sources of inspiration.
Speaking to media portrayals, the women all expressed how our favorite TV shows get it wrong. “The thing that gets missed is the family that’s required to get this thing done,” expressed Alex. Carena took that sentiment a step further, sharing that “[her] kids grew up in the back of [her] restaurant.”
On the topic of role models and ingénues, a few of the panelists gave a shoutout to fellow panelist Brittanny for paving the way. Humbled, Brittanny credited the next generation of women for inspiring her to cultivate a place where she’s surrounded by more women than ever before.
Then the women got raw and real speaking on how they combat stress and make time for self-care. Carena acknowledged the issue of substance abuse in the industry and the need for a healthy outlet. An ultra-marathoner herself, running is how she manages. Kelli shared how valuable her therapist is to her, giving her a space to dump and serving as a critical ally in maintaining her mental health.
When it comes to sources of inspiration, the women spoke of drawing creativity and energy from different areas. For Liz, it’s the people of the Arts District, where three of the company’s five restaurants are located. For Kelli, who built a coffeehouse that caters to connecting people, its people who are willing to step outside of their comfort zone. Brittanny called out the front of house team and local suppliers like Manakintowne for their contributions to the “creative factory” that she sees her restaurants as.
On the topic of failure, Alex admitted that some of her own shortcomings have been the result of hearing but not listening. Brittanny summed things up by saying, “People tell you you’re going to fail all the time. And you just have to work harder than them.” Kelli took it one step further, “The joy is [people] thought I was going to fail, and I didn’t.”
The evening was bursting with the same curiosity, energy, and openness that seems to pervade our panels, though there was something special about this one. The food the team at ZZQ churned out for the event surely contributed, but we think it was something bigger. There are awesome things happening in the Richmond food scene and the greater community, and we had a chance to hear from the mouths of those making it happen.