Inspiring Women in Food for International Women's Day

An article written by Fazela Khatun


Today we are celebrating Women in Food for International Women's day. From cooking, marketing, business, growing and community work. Women have historically been behind the scenes but we are seeing more and more women at the forefront. We interviewed some inspirational women who are breaking the boundaries and creating representation for women in the food industry: telling the stories about who they are and what they do as women paving the way.


Yu Miles - Master Chef

@cookingwith_yui


Yu Miles comes from a Thai-Chinese family where cooking and eating have always been a focal point of family life. Yu’s parents have always cooked traditional Thai and Chinese inspired dishes throughout her childhood. She got married and moved to the UK in 2001. Yu began to learn to cook more western and British food while adding her own Asian twist. Yu has followed her heart and passion for authentic Asian cuisine, showcasing her dishes on BBC’s MasterChef UK 2019 as a quarterfinalist and Channel 4’s Beat the Chef cooking game show.



How did you get into working where you are now?

My journey started after appearing on Masterchef and Beat the Chef. You have got to have passion and love and put 100% effort, love and care into whatever you do.


How do you feel about the representation of women in this industry?

Definitely it has been an improvement of gender inequality in the food industry and hopefully will continue this way. We women should be super proud to be able to represent ourselves and be successful in the food industry.”


What are your goals and aims for the future?

I would like to have my Cookbook launch which would share the love of food that I have been growing up eating. I really hope that my cooking experiences and the food I discover will be beautifully conveyed in a cookbook. I look forward to creating recipes for people to enjoy.”


Zuza Zak - Cook and Writer

@zuzazakcooks

Zuza is a storyteller cook. She was born in Poland and came to the UK aged 8. Now, she explores East European culture through food and stories. Zuza has written tw cookbooks: Polska and Amber&Rye and has another one coming out in the Summer.


How did you get into working where you are now?

“I mainly cook and write as my job, so I work from home a lot. I used to work in TV production, commute every day, but when I had a child I lost my passion for it. It was too demanding and the hours didn't suit motherhood. Luckily, the book I was writing at the time (Polska) was published soon after my daughter was born and I had a reasonably smooth transition to a career in food.”

How do you feel about the representation of women in this industry?


“I am a home taught cook, working in a niche cuisine and yet I am making a career out of it. I feel grateful to be able to do what I love and to show women that there are many ways of forging a career in food. It hasn't always been easy, because East European food is still relatively unknown, yet that's partly what makes it exciting.”


What are your goals and aims for the future?


“I am taking part in the #CookforUkraine campaign, which has only just come about because of the War. I am going to be doing Pierogi workshops to raise money. After, I have another two books in the pipeline, and then I will take a career break to focus on my food focussed PhD.”


Chelcie Thomas - Founder and Social Media Manager

@flysocialsuk

Chelcie Thomas is the founder of Flysocial a marketing agency that specialises in local food and drink companies. She began Flysocials in 2021 and before that Chelcie worked in hospitality and Marketing. Food was her main focal point since she is a foodie. She began as a freelancer and now is in the process of having a small team.

How did you get into working where you are now?


“Main thing that I did was gain experience. I worked with a lot of different small companies. Then organically networking, meeting people, and then also my Instagram page, though it does not have a big following. However, I feel like community is something that I've been able to build, this has helped me network and helped me get a lot of opportunities and put myself out there.”


How do you feel about the representation of women in this industry?


“When I began freelancing all my clients were men. This was a massive change for me as I have always worked with women before. I think because I'm still new to the industry. I'm not really sure how to answer that. But there could be more women and more inclusivity in the food and drink industry. In Flysocials we aim to have a mixture of clients of women and men.”


What are your goals and aims for the future?


“To work more with more independent and local businesses, build them up and make them recognisable. Also to work with more people and to create more awareness of who Flysocial are and what we do. To provide affordable services to help the community. Main focus is providing opportunities for the local people, get their voice out and tell their story and we feel like we can do that creatively!”


Jo Railing - Head of Communications

@food.foundation



Joe Rolling is Head of Communications at the Food Foundation. A campaigning organisation, achieving to make the food system better. They do that by lobbying, campaigning and working with government and business. We have a real focus on food poverty and food insecurity. Focused on lower income groups and people who are out there struggling to afford a healthy and sustainable diet. Jo’s job is to help amplify the foundation’s work by getting press and media to cover food insecurity issues.


How did you get into working where you are now?


“I used to work in television and documentaries. I spent about 20 years making documentaries, and I ended up working for Jamie Oliver and then I moved to the Food Foundation. I've managed to bring my major experience together with some campaigning work. Now I spend a lot of time talking to the press and media to really get the message through to the government that they have to change.”


How do you feel about the representation of women in this industry?


“I think that traditionally women have been used in the food industry in the lesser paid jobs, like dinner ladies, catering staff and the hospitals. I think a lot of women who work in those environments are being paid less than the minimum wage and on zero hours contracts. This is not great. However, there is a revolution for women in terms of chefs, and running their own restaurants and leading. But I think we need to see a fundamental shift in the making to protect that workforce and make the women who are struggling get an honest wage for what they do. “


What are your goals and aims for the future?

“I want every child in the UK to have a healthy and sustainable diet. If we want a thriving community and successful economy, I think we've got to recognise the importance of feeding our kids.”


Shanelle Webb - Community worker

@thesoulshackldn


Shanelle Webb is the founder of Soulshack London. She works with young people in Kennington who have experienced youth violence. They provide young people with training programmes, mentoring workshops and cooking classes.

How did you get into working where you are now?


“I was working in youth work and I was inspired to help champion young people. Also just to have a project of my own and to help others.”


How do you feel about the representation of women in this industry?


“Women are always in activism and labouring in the food industry, but never as much in the professional side as men.


What are your goals and aims for the future?


“My goals and aims is to create a permanent space in Kennington in South London to help young people through education and food.”


We can see that from different areas of the food industry, women are making an impact. Each woman's journey is making a change to the wider community through government policies, helping local businesses, education, social media, making cultural recipes and community work. Innovating the fresh minds of young people and influencing other women. This is an exciting time to be a woman in food. These are the inspirational women for BPK’s International Women’s Day 2022.


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