Why these LA chefs are launching a food festival to empower female restaurateurs – LA Daily News

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As the coronavirus pandemic continues to decimate the restaurant industry, a group of women restaurateurs from Los Angeles plans to fight back with food.

But the RE:Her food festival, which takes place Jan. 21-Jan. 30, is just an appetizer for their new organization’s main purpose, which is to empower female restaurant owners.

The 10-day event, which includes restaurants throughout the Los Angeles County serving food specials as well as panel discussions and conversations, is organized by the recently formed charitable organization RE:Her, a nonprofit  created by nine veteran female chefs in the area in response to the devastating impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on the industry with the specific goal of helping female restaurant owners

“What we’re trying to do is uplift women restaurateurs. Uplift them and at some point we want to be able to provide mentorship and grants,” said Sylvie Gabriele, owner of Manhattan Beach’s Love & Salt restaurant and one of the founders of the new organization.

“The festival is really phase one of the Re:Her mission,” she added.

Other founding members include Lien Ta (All Day Baby), Sandra Cordero (Gasolina Cafe), Bricia Lopez (Guelaguetza), Mary Sue Milliken (Border Grill, Socalo), Kimberly Prince (Hotville Chicken), Dina Samson (Rossoblu, Superfine Pizza), Heather Sperling (Botanica), and Brittney Valles (Guerrilla Tacos).

The new organization was launched in late December after conversations the founding members were having about the effects of the pandemic and how they, as experienced owners, could help others.

With an initial fundraising goal of $500,000, the organization is hoping to eventually provide grants that can be used for myriad reasons, including paying past-due bills, payroll costs, or sprucing up their patios once outdoor dining returns as well as mentoring help.

“We wanted to start a nonprofit that would mean more collaborating, more mentorship, more supporting each other, especially our sisters who have smaller restaurants who don’t have the same resources as maybe someone like me who’s been around for 40 years,” Milliken said.

“I have been around a long time and this is all so energizing for me,” she added.

Mary Sue Milliken owner of Border Grill and Socalo, is one of nine founding members of RE:Her, a new restaurant association that aims to empower female restaurant owners . The organizing is launching a 10-day food festival from Jan.21-30 called 10 Days RE:Her.(Photo by Anne Fishbein)

On the menu

The festival will launch with more than 100 eateries and their chefs coming up with special menus for the event.

Similar to the Dine L.A. events, participating restaurants will prepare special menu items available during the 10-day festival. But due to COVID-19 restrictions, the festival will offer takeout only options for dishes they are preparing for the event.

Besides the food, the festival will include online panel discussions between restaurant owners and chefs that people can drop in on. They are free but donations are suggested.

And with the hopes of introducing diners to more female-owned restaurants across the county that they otherwise may not be familiar with, 10 Days RE:Her will also include collaborations between restaurants.

“It’s going to be way cooler than Dine L.A., but don’t tell them,” Milliken said with a laugh.

“We’re doing all these collaborations because that’s what women love to do,” she said.

Some of these collaborations will include chefs mixing their dishes in one plate or serving their food in other restaurants.

For example, Milliken will team up with several restaurant owners during the event, including Kimberly Prince of Hotville Chicken. Prince will serve her hot fried chicken tacos from Socalo in Santa Monica while Milliken will serve her Santa Monica Farmer’s Market Street Bowl dish from Prince’s Crenshaw location on select dates.

“It’s a menu mashup where Kim gets to introduce our Santa Monica Farmer’s Market Street Bowl to her customers, and you can add her fried chicken on top of it if you like, and I get to introduce my customers to Kim’s Hotville Chicken,” Milliken said.

Milliken is also collaborating with Sandra Cordero of Gasolina Cafe in Woodland Hills and Valerie Confections from Echo Park for a meal box that can be picked up at all three locations.

It’s made up of Cordero’s mussel salad, Milliken’s duck carnitas cassoulet and a cheesecake from Valerie Confections.

“Everyone has been so isolated this last year, it’s just so nice to feel like we’re doing something together. And I think it’s time, women are still very little represented in our industry. So we just want to put a little spotlight on all those restaurants,” Cordero said.

“The idea of the organization is it’s not a one time thing, we are here for the long run,” she added.

10 Days RE:Her

When: Jan. 21-30

Where: Detailed menus and events will be posted on regardingherfood.com closer to event date.

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