LADIES IN WHITE: Women Are Running Some of the Area's Best Kitchens
Geracimos, Ann, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Susan McCreight Lindborg, Ann Cashion and Sharon Banks: three female chefs of Washington from three different backgrounds who represent the distinct ways women assume command in a traditionally male-dominated profession.
None of the three would ever say a woman's approach to cooking is different because of her sex; it may be too soon for that sort of discussion.
What's obvious, however, is their dedication to their jobs. None yet owns a restaurant alone, although Cashion's Eat Place at 1819 Columbia Road NW in Adams Morgan bears her name.
All have been praised for their accomplishments by people who may be unaware of the different routes each has taken to reach her present prestigious post.
Behind them stand a number of talented younger women who are eagerly embracing what may be one of the hardest working jobs in a professional-minded town. The hours are long; demands are constant. To achieve the results they want, they must depend on so many changing variables - weather, delivery systems, consumer tastes.
A few risk the assertion that Washington has more female chefs than ever, but this is tricky and may be a matter of economic forces rather than any liberalization within the ranks.
Some make time for trade association activities; others feel that networking is a luxury they cannot afford. Nor is their number so small that each knows the names of all the others.
Washington's restaurant trade can be extremely volatile. Movement in and out of their ranks is commonplace.
This August, four of Washington's best-known female chefs will team up for "A Capital Feast" at the annual fund-raiser for the James Beard Foundation in New York City. Each does one course in this collaborative meal. Pastry chef Ann Amernick, known locally as "the Queen of Sugar," will work with Mary Richter of Zuki Moon Noodle, Ms. Cashion and Ms. Lindborg.
Women currently work on top jobs in all areas in the region. Gerard Pangaud, owner and chef of Gerards Place at 915 15th St. NW, likes to boast that he has more women than men behind the scene - four to three - and credits his mother as being the key influence in his culinary life.
Ms. Lindborg, a 20-year veteran in the field, came to Washington from Madison, Wis., in 1987 and began work in 1990 at the District's historic Morrison Clark Inn in Northwest.
Born in Colorado and raised near the New Mexico border, her first cooking jobs were in Santa Fe. She literally trained on the job.
"I'm intense about it [her roots]," says Ms. Lindborg, adding that she and her husband indulge in red and green chilies whenever they visit home in the West.
Nowadays, her special interest is vegetables instead of meat. While she says customers still want the latter for special occasions, fish choices are more popular during the week.
"I'm waiting for the agricultural world to develop new vegetables, especially those that are red and green. I get more interested all the time in how food is seasoned and flavored," Ms. Lindborg says.
She goes out of her way to praise other women struggling as she does with long hours.
"I don't know one who couldn't have chosen another profession," she says.
And many have changed professions, she notes, citing as one example her restaurant's night sous chef, Janis McLean, who had been in office management.
She also refers to a high-powered female lawyer who works as an apprentice in her kitchen at the Morrison Clark Inn. The woman is trying to decide whether to give up the law completely in favor of a chef's job.
"It takes a long time to be a chef - the administrative part of the job, especially," she says. "I took a chef's job once too soon and then I regretted it. The worst parts are the long hours that are draining physically and mentally." But the best part, she says, "is making food. …