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Jenny Dorsey: From Columbia Dropout to Culinary Connoisseur

People

Jenny Dorsey was accepted as an early admissions student to the prestigious Columbia's Business School's Class of 2014 when she decided to take an abrupt turn on her career path. Dorsey ditched Columbia to pursue a Diploma in Culinary Arts at the Institute of Culinary Education, also located in New York City. Jenny, who was working at Accenture at the time, recalls this "overnight decision" as a pivotal moment in her career.


Fast forward a few years and Jenny now runs her own culinary consulting firm Jenny Dorsey Consulting. Dorsey's business is centralized on all tenants a restaurant entrepreneur should know; including business strategy, menu research & development, and concept development for culinary businesses. She is also the Co-Founder & Executive Chef of an underground supper club I Forgot It's Wednesday based in New York and San Francisco.

Dorsey is certainly a go-getter. Before rolling out her own busienss, Jenny led international menu R&D for Le Pain Quotidien. She has also been awarded grants from Bocuse d'Or and James Beard Foundation to further her culinary consulting practice.

Her recent achievements read like a lifetime worth of work. Among them; launching Pop & Pour, an upscale wine bar in the up-and-coming neighborhood around Dyckman Street, helping start Noodelove, a new Asian noodle concept akin to Sweetgreen here in NYC. She is currently revamping a Nineties-era Thai chain restaurant in NYC called Spice to give them a refreshed menu for the new generation of eaters; ; writing the first cookbook for a well-known chef and his restaurant in West Village.

Regardless of how impressive Dorsey's resume may seem now, she explains that the beginning of her journey in the male dominated culinary industry wasn't always so admirable.

"The consulting business has been tough because I am 1. young 2. female 3. have limited cooking-only experience 4. seen as an 'elite outsider' given my background. Breaking down a lot of pre-conceived notions takes time, patience, and the strength of goodwill. I can't tell you how many times I came home crying because I was dismissed or condescended."

test kitchen and incubator focused on food, beverage, hospitality and business-minded professionals. Eat up entrepreneurs.

Even IFIW, the supper club which offers a uniquely stimulating dining experience faced scrutiny of it's own. Dorsey started the self-funded IFIW three years ago with her husband Matt and she explains, "At the beginning, everyone laughed at us. No one would come to our dinners, no matter what price point, because we were "nobody" on the NYC scene.

The press ignored us. But we hit the pavement, hustling hard to get people to give us a chance and dine at our establishment so they could fall in love. We believe in our concept and that we are addressing a real, emotional need in the people of New York City.

Dorsey is prime example of combining passion and work ethic to beat the odds and break into a new industry. These days, she uses her experience combined with her business background to help others do the same.

"Many owners and operators are willing to listen to your ideas if you approach them the right way," she says. "No one likes being told what to do, which is the traditional 'consultant' approach. Instead, I try to spend time within the organization itself, listening to the people who are working from the ground-up, and taking in their suggestions to my final suggestions so we can implement changes together, the right way."

An unconventional start to what has become a successful culinary career can be accredited to Dorsey's raw passion for food, and not just in the "my whole newsfeed is foodporn" way. Real, raw, passion for food and the dining experience.

"It's funny, because when I look back all the signs were there," she recalls, "I studied abroad in Rome and all I did was buy food at the markets and make (crappy) pasta dishes and eat them. I spent hundreds of dollars on recreational cooking classes and random specialty food."

"I think one day I woke up and realized I spend more than 80 percent of my life thinking about 1 topic, maybe I should work in that industry."

It goes without saying that Dorsey's career revolves around sharing her passion for the entire culinary experience, and helping to lift up other budding chefs. When asked about the future, Dorsey explains she is working on starting a new business called 10X (coming soon work10x.com), is a co-working space,

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THE FAST FIVE

1. What app do you most use?

Probably Instagram, just to look at #foodporn.

2. Name a business mogul you admire.

JK Rowling. She's always been a hero of mine.

3. What product do you wish you had invented?

Freaking Pill Pockets!

4. What is your life motto?

It's your life. Own up.

5. Desert Island. Three things, go.

Water filter in large bottle. Tazer with rechargeable batteries. One of those laser shooters to denote asking for help.

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7min read
Culture

The Middle East And North Africa Are Brimming With Untapped Female Potential

Women of the Middle East have made significant strides in the past decade in a number of sectors, but huge gaps remain within the labor market, especially in leadership roles.


A huge number of institutions have researched and quantified trends of and obstacles to the full utilization of females in the marketplace. Gabriela Ramos, is the Chief-of-Staff to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an alliance of thirty-six governments seeking to improve economic growth and world trade. The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.

To realize the possibilities, attention needs to be directed toward the most significantly underutilized resource: the women of MENA—the Middle East and North African countries. Educating the men of MENA on the importance of women working and holding leadership roles will improve the economies of those nations and lead to both national and global rewards, such as dissolving cultural stereotypes.

The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.

In order to put this issue in perspective, the MENA region has the second highest unemployment rate in the world. According to the World Bank, more women than men go to universities, but for many in this region the journey ends with a degree. After graduating, women tend to stay at home due to social and cultural pressures. In 2017, the OECD estimated that unemployment among women is costing some $575 billion annually.

Forbes and Arabian Business have each published lists of the 100 most powerful Arab businesswomen, yet most female entrepreneurs in the Middle East run family businesses. When it comes to managerial positions, the MENA region ranks last with only 13 percent women among the total number of CEOs according to the Swiss-based International Labor Organization (ILO.org publication "Women Business Management – Gaining Momentum in the Middle East and Africa.")

The lopsided tendency that keeps women in family business—remaining tethered to the home even if they are prepared and capable of moving "into the world"—is noted in a report prepared by OECD. The survey provides factual support for the intuitive concern of cultural and political imbalance impeding the progression of women into the workplace who are otherwise fully capable. The nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt all prohibit gender discrimination and legislate equal pay for men and women, but the progressive-sounding checklist of their rights fails to impact on "hiring, wages or women's labor force participation." In fact, the report continues, "Women in the six countries receive inferior wages for equal work… and in the private sector women rarely hold management positions or sit on the boards of companies."

This is more than a feminist mantra; MENA's males must learn that they, too, will benefit from accelerating the entry of women into the workforce on all levels. Some projections of value lost because women are unable to work; or conversely the amount of potential revenue are significant.

Elissa Freiha, founder of Womena, the leading empowerment platform in the Middle East, emphasizes the financial benefit of having women in high positions when communicating with men's groups. From a business perspective it has been proven through the market Index provider MSCI.com that companies with more women on their boards deliver 36% better equity than those lacking board diversity.

She challenges companies with the knowledge that, "From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies."

Freiha agrees that educating MENA's men will turn the tide. "It is difficult to argue culturally that a woman can disconnect herself from the household and community." Her own father, a United Arab Emirates native of Lebanese descent, preferred she get a job in the government, but after one month she quit and went on to create Womena. The fact that this win-lose situation was supported by an open-minded father, further propelled Freiha to start her own business.

"From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies." - Elissa Frei

While not all men share the open-mindedness of Freiha's dad, a striking number of MENA's women have convincingly demonstrated that the talent pool is skilled, capable and all-around impressive. One such woman is the prominent Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, who is currently serving as a cabinet minister in the United Arab Emirates and previously headed a successful IT strategy company.

Al-Qasimi exemplifies the potential for MENA women in leadership, but how can one example become a cultural norm? Marcello Bonatto, who runs Re: Coded, a program that teaches young people in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen to become technology leaders, believes that multigenerational education is the key. He believes in the importance of educating the parent along with their offspring, "particularly when it comes to women." Bonatto notes the number of conflict-affected youth who have succeeded through his program—a boot camp training in technology.

The United Nations Women alongside Promundo—a Brazil-based NGO that promotes gender-equality and non-violence—sponsored a study titled, "International Men and Gender Equality Survey of the Middle East and North Africa in 2017."

This study surveyed ten thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 59 across both rural and urban areas in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. It reports that, "Men expected to control their wives' personal freedoms from what they wear to when the couple has sex." Additionally, a mere one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently carried out a more conventionally "female task" in their home.

Although the MENA region is steeped in historical tribal culture, the current conflict of gender roles is at a crucial turning point. Masculine power structures still play a huge role in these countries, and despite this obstacle, women are on the rise. But without the support of their nations' men this will continue to be an uphill battle. And if change won't come from the culture, maybe it can come from money. By educating MENA's men about these issues, the estimated $27 trillion that women could bring to their economies might not be a dream. Women have been empowering themselves for years, but it's time for MENA's men to empower its women.