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Women Who Really Cook Celebrates 25 Years

Gathering to celebrate 25 years of networking for Women Who Really Cook are (left to right) Delaine Sundahl, Sara Bloms, LoAnn Mockler, Sue Zelickson, Kelly Allard, Becca Griffith, Susan Denzer and Tamara Multerer.

all photos by Lisa Lardy Photography

It was 1993 and Sue Zelickson stopped in at a little coffee shop, Lakeside Lucy’s on Excelsior Boulevard. She started chatting with the young owner, Lucy Spangler Gore, who was trying to make business connections but wasn’t quite sure how to go about it.  

“She said, ‘I want to meet other people in the food business, how can I do that?’” recalls Zelickson. “I got a bunch of my food friends together and it just started to mushroom. People started using other people’s products and eventually we started doing the tours and meetings that we do today.”

Katie Myhre (left), co-founder of RED Market, and Rainbow Chinese owner Tammy Wong join the WWRC party at Design Within Reach at the Galleria in Edina.

Gore went on to open a restaurant in Napa, California, and now runs a catering kitchen there serving area wineries. Back in the Twin Cities, what started as an informal group of a couple dozen women sharing advice and contacts evolved into networking organization Women Who Really Cook, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in September. 

“Even as we have more women-owned businesses and restaurants, there’s still so much value to hearing from other women and learning from their experiences,” says Zelickson. The organization also launched the Sue Zelickson Grant program, which has awarded more than $40,000 to female students pursuing education in the culinary or hospitality field. This year the board adjusted the group’s giving focus to support food and hunger-related nonprofits as part of a shift toward community programs, along with member education on topics such as marketing, legal issues and business expansion.

“As our membership has become more entrepreneurial in nature we’ve changed our meeting format and focus to suit those needs,” says LoAnn Mockler, WWRC’s executive director and owner of marketing and food consulting business Side Dish. “We’re conscious of the fact that the money we give back to the community is really membership dues, so we want to be responsible with that.”

Members Laura Wade, Marty Glanville, Kim Bartmann and Molly Broder join in the festivities for the 25th anniversary of Women Who Really Cook.

Dues are $45 for a yearlong membership, a price that’s only gone up $5 in 10 years, points out Mockler. “Keeping it accessible to people is really important,” she adds.

WWRC has more than 200 members, such as Sara Bloms, who owns The Everyday Table and provides restaurant menu labeling and nutrient analysis services. She joined WWRC in 2013 and now serves as membership director. She said not only has she gained more clients through the group than any other advertising she’s done, WWRC is also great support system in a male-dominated industry. “To be able to share ideas or issues I’m having with like-minded women without fear of competition is huge,” says Bloms. “I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve talked about WWRC with women in other industries or even the food industry outside of Minnesota who have all said that what we have, WWRC, is unlike any networking group—and I believe that.”

Susan Denzer was among the grant award recipients while attending culinary school at Saint Paul College. She now owns culinary consulting business Love + Craft Kitchen and relocated to Oregon but is still on WWRC’s board. 

Merrilyn Tauscher was a home economist for what is now Lunds and Byerlys when she became a WWRC member more than 20 years ago. She’s been able to learn, make useful connections and even hire employees thanks to the organization, she says, adding, “WWRC keeps me inspired about food, and reminds me to help mentor women the way Sue Z. does.”

“The main thrust remains the philanthropy and the networking,” says Zelickson. “It’s women from all walks of life, all ages and stages of their careers.” 

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