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This 24 Year-Old Sushi Chef Has Shattered The Culinary Glass Ceiling

People

It's an aging concept, that of the male-only executive in the kitchen. Women, who have long been confined to pastry or serving in restaurants now find themselves dominating in the food and beverage sectors throughout the world. Whether they're rockstar bartenders or beverage directors, or conceptual sue chefs, or kitchen executives, these sectors have been some of the fastest to knock down the gender barriers that have plagued the working world for centuries.


In Michelin ratings, women still have a ways to go, with only about 8% of the starred restaurants in NYC run by female chefs, something the guide's director said they “can't do anything about" when questioned on the gender discrepancies.

Michelins aside however, it's the sushi industry that is the focal point here, which, food-critics Zagat have described as “woefully behind in terms of gender equality." At 24, Oona Tempest is one of the youngest female sushi chefs on the scene in New York, and has taken the industry's engendered history to task with her quick rise to prominence in the Edomae sushi sphere.

“I had no idea I was going to be a chef," laughs Tempest, who was an aspiring marine biologist before taking an art degree in New York. Given her proclivity for the creative, and her waitressing job at the time in Tanoshi Sushi, it became inevitable that the two would converge when one day, the head chef asked her if she would like to hold a knife. “I started as a waitress," begins Tempest. “I learned about the differences in the fish, their history. what their seasons are so I could explain to customers the technical facts. Then my master invited me one night to try holding a knife, and it just snowballed from there."

Oona Tempest

The fast-pace movement of NYC's restaurant scene lends itself to a faster training progress than the traditions practiced in sushi's home country. “In Japan an apprentice would start as a host or a dishwasher," says Tempest. “Traditionally you would start cleaning the floor, and then washing the rice for a year or two, then cleaning or gutting the fish for a year or two, and the minimum (for the training) would be ten years." For Tempest, the expedited process came by virtue of a few factors, the most important being work ethic. Under the supervision of her master, she worked almost 7 days a week, focusing only on one skill at a time. “So it looks like I got where I am really fast but really it was just because of the level of intensity I was trained at," she comments.

“And of course this is ignoring the fact that first of all, you would not be female," Tempest states. Given the patriarchal nature of Japan's culture, this mentality has seeped into sushi restaurants throughout the world. Even with asian fusions such as fan-favorite Nobu, a female chef behind the sushi counter is a rarity, if not a non-entity.

It only takes one, of course.

Tempest's quick rise through the ranks at Tanoshi gave her a resounding name for herself when she looked to make the next step in her career. Her most recent posting is at David Bouhadana's Sushi By Bou, of which, she is Sushi By Bae(and yes, we absolutely adore the name).

“Traditionally you would start cleaning the floor, and then washing the rice for a year or two, then cleaning or gutting the fish for a year or two, and the minimum (for the training) would be ten years. And of course this is ignoring the fact that first of all, you would not be female."

-Oona Tempest

You'll find Tempest's sushi counter nestled away in the hip Jue Lan Club where you will sit down at her counter and watched her transform what looks like regular fish into a culinary experience that is sure to blow you away.

Tempest's 90-minute Omakase is similar to a restaurant tasting menu, only a little more intimate. Omakase basically means “I trust you" in Japanese, whereby you give all inhibition over and allow the chef to do the choosing for you. In the last few years, Omakase and particularly Tempest's style of traditional serving, Edomae, has been available in very few restaurants in the city, a trend which appears to be turning around.

“New York City is going through quite a sushi renaissance," says Tempest. “Just this past summer alone, 10 new high-end Omakase restaurants opened up."

The renaissance has begotten a rebirth of old style sushi - very simple, clean, no extra ingredients and very traditional - Edomae, which is an old form of sushi, is what sushi trends are now reverting to. To say you're Edomae technically means you're using fish from only the Tokyo region, but now it intimates that you're using this old, simple style. All of Tempest's fish comes from the biggest fish market in the region, Tsukiji, which is easily imported into New York because of great trading lines between the two cities, but also makes for a different day, everyday. Tempest relies on her imagination for each tasting menu, given the unpredictability of the fish coming in from abroad.

Given the spotlight that is now on the culinary arts to embrace the times, we're confident Oona will soon be working with a team of female sushi chefs. But for now, we will continue to watch in awe as she keeps us drooling over her beautiful and delectable fish artistry.

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Business

Kegs, Cans And Sustainability: How These Women Are Making Billions In The Wine Industry

Universally loved, and, (especially at this time of year) drunk merrily and in excess, wine is the answer to much if not all our prayers, on a regular basis.


The wine industry also happens to be home to some major female leaders, and it's become apparent, that the barriers to entry women face in almost every other industry don't apply here, as long as you've the work ethic and brains behind your operation.

"This is a people's business," says Delia Vader, CEO of Viader Wines, who's vehement about the gender neutrality of the wine industry, and hopeful for it's future, (even with the hefty factors of global warming, and recent wildfires, contending with the grape-producing vines).

Naturally, we were all too excited to sit down with five leaders in the industry working throughout the globe, that are innovating and shaping the future vintages from California to Italy and beyond. Below are five such women, ranging from vineyard to store owners, and one woman who's completely shifting the way we think about wine consumption.

Francesca Planeta

Francesca Planeta, Wine Director, Planeta Wines

Francesca Planeta has been a rising star on the Sicilian wine scene for the last few years. Planeta is devoted not only to promoting her own vineyard, but promoting all the wines of Italy's largest island, which is most famous for the wonderful, Nero D'Avola.

Sicily's wine scene veritably boomed around Planeta as she was growing up. So when she finally began working on the Planeta Wines vineyard in her early twenties, she quickly learned the nuances of the land and the grapes she would ultimately come to produce. “I had begun to help out at the winery, using a graphics studio to create the logo and the first labels, and then I returned to Sicily, during the time of that first harvest. (This) was the moment when I decided that I would take on the challenge of working with the business that bore our family name."

Given that the business was family owned, Planeta did not encounter any barriers to entry because of her gender, but instead made sure that women are integral to the process on the vineyard. “Women have a fundamental role in our business," says the winemaker. “They are entrusted with many responsible positions; from wine making to directing exports and from the hotels to the entire marketing and communications office."

A worrying factor for both Planeta and the women at the vineyard however is global warming, something which has plagued wineries across the globe in recent years. Given that the taste and production of wine depends heavily on its “terroir" (or, surroundings), changes in environment are immediately a factor for anyone in the industry to consider when its coming to harvest season. “It generally seems to us that global warming presents not only a problem of warming in itself," she comments. “But in extremes of weather phenomena, with heavier rainfall – when it occurs, and rather longer periods of drought. (However), living and working in the centre of the Mediterranean gives us better conditions and the last twenty years have shown greater climatic stability."

Selling upwards of 2.3M bottles of wine a year, her chief markets (apart from Italy), are the United States, Germany, England, and Russia, followed by Canada, Switzerland and Japan. And she recommends that for the chillier months, if you're drinking a Sicilian wine, to go for Merlot, Syrah, or Burdese.

Delia Viader, CEO, Viader Wines

Argentinian-born Delia Viader was in the midst of an M.I.T degree, with three children at home, when an opportunity arose to purchase a vineyard in Napa Valley. “The timing was perfect for relocating my very young family," she says, who quickly got to grips with their new surroundings as their mother began constructing a powerhouse wine team to launch Viader Wines.

It hasn't always been easy for Viader and her team however. Before the financial crash of 2008, Viader was sold in every state throughout the U.S, and exported to 24 countries abroad. Since the crash, and an arsonist fire at a warehouse of theirs containing the entire 2003 vintage, they've changed their business model drastically. Now, they sell 90 percent of their collections direct-to-consumer, with the remaining 10 percent sent abroad or to the bigger markets of New York, California and Texas.

She has also become naturally concerned by the Californian wildfires of late, and their threat to both the vines, and the warehouses where the barrels are kept. “The biggest impact on our vineyard has been the change of weather pattern we have been experiencing for the past 35 years that we can speak of," says the CEO. “We are learning a lot about how resilient affected vines can be, and how wine made from those grapes needs to be processed to perhaps reshape stylistic performance of the resulting wine. The winegrowers as an industry will be learning a lot from this."

Delia Viader

Learning and innovating are at the core of Viader's vineyards, where her son, Alan is championing new ways to irrigate their 92-acres of land, and fine tuning an understanding of “the exact optimal time to harvest at each vines' peak ripeness." And while she may be the CEO, she heavily depends on him for his expertise and blending capabilities. “I am the owner and CEO but I call myself the wine mother because I am the mother of the vines (I had them planted myself, my way); the mother of the wine (I 'created' our Cabernet-based wine to be highly influenced by the terroir with a high dose of Cab franc and remain, highly influential at the final assemblage-blend); and I am the mother of the winemaker, my son Alan Viader."

What is Viader most likely to be drinking at this moment? “I am very susceptible to a vibrant Pinot Noir from Burgundy most times," she says. “But my choice really depends on two variables: the food I am going to have and the company, the people I am going to share that bottle of wine with. I love harmony in the wine, the food pairing and the conviviality that springs from sharing a great wine."

Julia Jackson

Julia Jackson, Propietor, Jackson Family Wines

As one of the largest family-run wine groups in the U.S, The Jackson Family has garnered quite a name for itself. Leading the way within the group is Julia Jackson, daughter of mother Barbara Banke and Jess Jackson who built the group up from the ground, which is now worth an estimated $2.3 billion.

Today, their portfolio boasts wines from 52 wineries throughout the world, and integral to that is building relationships from within and amalgamating abroad. For Jackson, that means working in almost every facet of the business in order to cover all the projects she wishes to pursue. “I wear a few hats in my family business," she comments. “I'm spearheading my first acquisition project in another country, (and) I work with our international sales team to be one of the faces for Jackson Family Wines." On top of this, she's also involved with the group's environmental and philanthropic efforts, which, given the wildfire situation in California, will be work much needed in the years to come. “All my philanthropic efforts are focused around our environment and I created a charitable program that gives grants to women within the eco-space through our Santa Maria based winery Cambria."

Jackson's favorite wine at this time of the year? Gran Moraine from Willamette Valley Oregon.

Hortense Bernard, General Manager, Millesima Wines

Hortense Bernard was working with global industry leaders Moet Hennessy Diageo in Paris as a brand manager before she made her big move to the U.S. Now, she stands as one of the youngest female General Managers in the world of a large international firm, atop the Millesima USA group.

Millesima, a leading retailer in Europe, who branched into he U.S in 2006, owns upwards of 2.5M bottles of fine wine that are housed in the company's cellars in Bordeaux, France, (which is also the largest AOC vineyard in the country).

Bernard, who had her first glass of wine at eight years old, works primarily with direct-to-consumer retail and educating the U.S market about Bordeaux wines from their shop on the Upper East Side here in New York. "My goal is to educate as much as I can," she says. "In store, we speak about Bordeaux, and try to explain (because Bordeaux wine can be really complex), the wine."

"When I arrived here, I didn't know anything about American consumption," she laughs. "So it took me quite a bit to learn about it and understand how Americans see wines, and what they mean when the ask for a Chardonnay."

On top of chatting with customers, Bernard plays host to a lot of cultural events throughout the city, accompanying her wines whenever there might be a chance to express the history and significance of the wine for both France, and the industry at large.

So naturally, when asked what she'll be drinking on the celebratory occasions of December, it will be a big full-bodied Bordeaux " because that always takes me back (home)."

Hortense Bernard

Marian Leitner, Founder, Archer Roose

Once it dawned on Marian Leitner that Millennials were drinking more wine than beer, she saw an opportunity to modernise the way we purchase, consume and enjoy wine.

"In the U.S, you actually pay more for the shipping and the packaging than you do for the wine itself," says Leitner. "So I started to ask why and learn more about the alternative packaging market."

Branching away from bottles, Leitner looked to packaging wine in every way beer is packaged - from cans and kegs, and then also, in boxes.

"You have to separate consumers into two buckets - the super high-end collectors, who make up less than 1 percent of the population, and then you have people who are drinking, "value" wines. And then the rest of America are basically beer drinkers."

Upon the realization that Millennial wine drinkers are more than beer drinkers, she also came to understand that they're also very brand-loyal. Brands that represent qualities and values they share, are the ones they're consuming the most. "So we decided to leverage the alternative packaging movement (which is keg, can and box), to cut through all the noise of the bottles in the wine store, and really connect with consumers." In doing so, she launched the company, Archer Roose Wines.

This move means, that apart from the ultra-hip way the wine is presented, you're also economizing. One box of Archer Roose wine contains the equivalent of 4 regular bottles. And inevitably, the kegs contain a huge volume.

Wine kegger, anyone?