13 Women Behind The Kitchen Shift in Pittsburgh
Kitchen culture in Pittsburgh is changing as a new generation of women chefs takes leadership roles at some of the city’s best restaurants.
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executive chef, soba
Tran grew up helping out at her parents’ restaurant, which served Vietnamese food and American sandwiches, in Philadelphia. She worked for Don Coluccio at The Capital Grille and Donato’s for nearly six years and later as the kitchen manager for Hyde Park in the North Shore. Looking for a change, she sent an email to big Burrito corporate chef Bill Fuller when she heard he was looking for a sous chef for the company’s Pan-Asian restaurant in Shadyside. She got the job and was promoted to executive chef after two and a half years when the previous kitchen head, Dustin Gardner, moved on to helm the kitchen at Casbah.
On moving up in restaurant kitchens: “I don’t think I was treated differently, but I definitely felt like I had to prove myself. I felt like I had to be better than everyone else in order to be considered on par with them.”
On gendered invisibility: “At least once a week someone tells me that I should tell the chef he’s great. It happens more often with older gentlemen. It’s a generational transition.”
executive chef/owner, josephine’s toast
Wardle’s first position was as a salad cook in Youngstown, Ohio, at “15 to 16ish.” When she moved to Pittsburgh in 2010 she took jobs at the Common Plea and later as an opening sous chef at the now-closed Marty’s Market in the Strip District and as a line cook at the Nevillewood Country Club. She moved on to a sous chef position at Isabela on Grandview and took over the day-to-day operations of the kitchen when Executive Chef Alan Peet became sick. Wardle became the restaurant’s executive chef at age 22. She moved on to her current position at Josephine’s Toast at Smallman Galley in December 2015.
On dealing with men: “There are silly, girlie slurs like, ‘Hey, what’s cooking, good looking?’ I don’t need that. It’s not like I’m coming to your fish truck and saying, ‘Hey, what smells?’ People will hang around and try to talk to you. If I were a dude, you wouldn’t linger.”
On leadership: “I run my kitchen open. If someone has a problem, they know they can talk to me about it. If I have a problem, I’ll talk to them about it. If I yell at someone during service, I always make sure to talk it through with them after and address why it happened.”
executive chef, whitfield
Zozula began her career working in delis and short-order cook counters in Westmoreland County. She cooked at Greensburg-area restaurants Spitfire Grill and the now-closed Mountain View Inn, where she eventually became sous chef. Zozula worked for six years at Eleven Contemporary Kitchen in the Strip District; she was the restaurant’s executive sous chef before moving to Whitfield.
On social networks: “I don’t really feel like there needs to be a girls’ club or a boys’ club. I don’t have a group of chefs that I hang out with, male or female. I’m not a club person. I like you or I don’t as a person. I’m more interested in what you’re doing than what your gender is.”
On being a woman running a kitchen in 2016: “The job isn’t any different than it’s ever been. You have to wrangle a bunch of people and get them to do what they’re supposed to be doing.”