Top female chef in Tampa Bay up for 2019 James Beard Award

Local News

Female food bosses are taking over Tampa Bay with more women working their way to the top at trendy restaurants in our area.

Rachel Bennett is a shining example. She is the executive chef at the popular “Library” restaurant in downtown St. Petersburg.  Bennet is a semifinalist for the James Beard “Rising Star Chef of the Year” award. 

Bennet broke into the business when she was18 years-old and needed a job for a college elective.

“I’m the kind of person who’s like go big or go home. So I went straight to Bern’s Steak House. I was like, “Why not? Let’s see if I can get the job,” she said.

That experience secured her top positions and prizes in competitions across Tampa Bay.  Bennett did admit that stirring up change in a man’s world wasn’t always easy, but has this advice.

“Plan to work hard. Plan to work harder than the guy next to you,  plan to be stronger, be faster but it’s all worth it. I think women can sometimes get scared and think, “oh I have to go to pastry school, or whatever, but I have a lot of women in the kitchen now that can do that sauté station just as good as the guys next to them. Just do it, just go for it and be confident and be empowered in your femininity that you can do something just as good as somebody else,” said Bennett.

Tampa Bay has standout female pioneers in the industry.  BT Ngyen and Jeannie Pierola have been top female bosses at their restuaurants for decades.  Maryann Ferenc has successfully operated Tampa’s premier Mise En Place for more than 30 years.

The 2019 James Beard Award nominees will be announced on March 27, 2019.

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