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Photo by Adam Lowe

Women Who Run With Knives

“Men just want to see their dick on a plate.”

I’m standing outside of The Kitchen with a handful of chefs, all women, who are taking a break from the whirl of activity and waves of heat inside. They are also dishing about men and women in the kitchen. The talk goes by so fast; sentences and anecdotes are tumbling over each other like the floor exercise at the Olympics.  One talks about the rampant sexual harassment she experienced in kitchens all over the country, and all chime in with their own experiences, from name-calling to slut-shaming. Some moan about how difficult it is to find chef’s coats that actually fit over their breasts, others complain about delivary men who seek signatures from male sous chefs, instead of the woman in charge. There is a lot of laughter, a lot of knowing glances, a little solemnity about the casual misogyny that permeates the vocation, and a lot of relief that all here, relaxing in an early spring breeze, are dancing to their own culinary drum.

All the lady food talent in the city seems to have alighted on The Kitchen tonight for the “Turning Up the Heat” event. Produced by The Kitchen and Columbus Food Adventures, this one-off night of girl power benefits the YWCA’s “Believe in Women” campaign, a 20 million dollar drive to renovate the Griswold building into a state-of-the-art facility. The monies raised tonight through ticket sale and a silent auction will be specifically earmarked for the build out of a professional kitchen. Women who are rebounding from issues of homelessness, abuse, human trafficking, addiction, or simply, the hardships of life will be able to learn both life skills and possible work skills in the new facility.

Walking in the door, Columbus Food Adventures’ Debra O’Molesky is so enthusiastic, she is bursting at the seams. This is so great, there is such good energy is the room, she grinned ear-to-ear.

“I didn’t even know there were 30 female chefs in this city,” amazed Sangeeta Lakhani of The Table, looking all around the room. “I mean, who knew? I am so excited to be here, women don’t get to work together too much.” Besides the flush of seeing everyone working together, Lakhani also added that the women are cleaner, and more organized. Even the lush menus were produced by a woman-run business, Igloo Press.

There are close to 100 guests and each food maker is responsible for their own little piece of the puzzle – be it a passed hors d’oevres, an appetizer, a salad, a meat course, a dessert, or a cocktail.  White plates are laid out on the pass, shiny in their cleanliness, waiting to be frames for the edible art still bubbling, mixing, and searing away in the kitchen. Helpers have volunteered their time to aid in the service and all have their heads down completing myriad tasks from shredding apples to painting plates with colorful sauces. A humming of busy is in the kitchen, but no loudness, no crashes, no undercover drama.

Before the hungry crowd clamors in, The Kitchen owners, Anne Boninsegna and Jen Lindsey, are joined by Columbus Food Adventure’s Bethia Woolf to give the assembled talent last minute directions and a whole lotta atta girls. Everyone is quiet, standing up straight, and paying attention. Bamboo boats are at a dead calm, waiting to be filled and floated around the room.

Boninsegna talked about the generous response from the community as a whole and noted that in “my wildest dreams, I couldn’t have dreamt of this.” Before the crowd dissolved into mush, Lindsey reminded everyone to beware of Betty, the temperamental stove. “How cool is it that our kitchen can help provide for their [the YWCA’s] kitchen,” she added to a cheer from the crowd.

“This is really special, women helping women,” said Lara Yazvac-Pipia of Two-Top Consulting. “Women love feeding people; there has been an connection since ancient times between women preparing, making sure something is wholesome and complete as a dish … women care a little bit more.”

Ajumama food truck chef/owner Laura Lee stood off to the side, looking at the ballet of movement in both the kitchen and in the front of the house. Lee explained that many of the artisans at hand work alone, be it on trucks, baking in the wee hours of the morning, or hurriedly running a kitchen. “We run businesses, we’re busy and this is a way to get together to socialize, work together … I am honored to be here.”

“It’s nice to be in the room with people who have had the same challenges, same concerns,” she continued. “Just to be here, and soak it up, from people like Jeni [Britton Bauer] … I mean, what she’s done for Columbus …” As Lee continued to fan girl about the ice cream doyenne, the evening continues to munch ahead.

“I love working in the kitchen with women, they have less ego and are more nurturing,” laughed Pipia, her bright red glasses bobbing, “Men are divas in the kitchen.”

For information regarding upcoming dinners and events at The Kitchen, visit thekitchencolumbus.com. Columbus Food Adventures is always adding new tours to support the exploding food scene; check them out at columbusfoodadventures.com. To learn more about the YWCA’s “Believe in Women” campaign, go to ywcacolumbus.org