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Women Chefs and Restaurateurs Expands With MN Chapter

As Women Chefs and Restaurateurs considers Minneapolis for its 2018 national conference, board members gather for Flour Power at the Food Building. Left to right: Laura Bolser, Kim Bartmann, board president Alicia Boada, Sydney Gavin, Wendy McGuire, Ruth Gresser, advisor Debbie Benedetti, and Bonnie Moore.

It began as a discussion about farming, health and the burgeoning artisanal grain and heirloom wheat movement, and though by the end there were perhaps more questions than answers, it’s starting the conversation that’s important, said Kim Bartmann.

“The point is getting people together to talk and be supportive,” said Bartmann following Women Chefs and Restaurateurs first formal event in Minneapolis. The gathering at the Food Building last month also served as an opportunity for WCR’s board members (Bartmann is vice president) to visit the city they’re considering for the organization’s 2018 national conference. 

Created in 1993 to promote the education and advancement of women in the restaurant and foodservice industry, Women Chefs and Restaurateurs is a “really powerful and useful” resource that also offers scholarships and business support. Bartmann became involved “honestly, as a reaction to that Mpls.St.Paul Magazine cover and the feeling that women chefs were not getting the recognition they deserved in this market,” she explained, referencing the March 2015 “Best Restaurants” cover featuring only male chefs.

“The restaurant being busy is a direct result of the media attention you get,” she continued, “and when it’s the same three guys or whatever getting the attention, that has real consequences. Real financial consequences.” 

Bartmann hopes the Minnesota contingent of WCR will continue to grow and expand its mentorship role, while hosting events that benefit the industry.

Last month’s “Flour Power” event brought together Sunrise Flour Mill owners Marty and Darrold Glenville, Steve Horton of Baker’s Field Flour and Bread, chef and educator Jenny Breen, Laura Hansen of General Mills, and vegetable grower Eli Wheeler. As “consumers want the clean label,” said Hansen, General Mills, like its small-scale counterparts, “is researching ways to get back to traditional grains and flavors.”

“The consumer is starting to want different things and the food industry is responding,” she said, though the continual challenge is how to make it affordable. 

“The only way we’re going to get prices down is if more people start growing it,” said Sunrise’s Marty Glenville of using heritage and whole grains in flour milling and baking.

Breen, who teaches courses at the University of Minnesota through the Healthy Foods Healthy Lives Institute, noted the importance of educating consumers. “Our American palate is pretty messed up right now. People need to understand what the crap they’re eating is doing to them.” 

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