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fast and (Furey)ious at FAB: Charleston's women-based culinary bootcamp

Learning: it is what keeps the mind young. Henry ford once said, "Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty."

This isn't my typical blog post, more of a reflection on a very inspiring opportunity. This is a post that showcases heavy-hitting women in the culinary industry!

This year, for the second time, Randi Weinstein, the executive director of FAB in Charleston, South Carolina, granted me a scholarship to attend FAB. I cannot thank her enough for this opportunity. She is a wonderful businesswoman, friend and leader.

Camille Becerra

FAB is "educational and inspirational workshops created by women, for women in the hospitality industry." ( )

Here is an article written about it in the Post and Courier by Hannah Raskin. (Click here.)

Pictured on the right is Vivian Howard and I after her lecture on creating a cookbook.

Here are some lessons that I learned, as well as descriptions of some of the speakers.

  • How to ask for what you really want: the art of negotiation

○ Martha Hoover- CEO of Patachou, a restaurant empire. She was named "the most important chef you didnt know" by Robb Report (click here.)

○ Melanie Tapp- F&B Senior Director at 21c Museum Hotels in Louisville, KY, she sold everything from wine to cats, before realizing that hospitality has her heart (click here.)

○ Moderator: Michele Stumpe- Seasoned lawyer in the hospitality industry, she sure rocks a red jumpsuit (click here.)

Change the power so that you have it.

Know the message that you are trying to deliver.

You are in the negotiations for a reason.

You might not be the smartest person, but make sure you are the most prepared.

You do NOT have to talk the whole time during a negotiation. Listening might just be

your best tool.

Give yourself outs in every negotiation..

Never accept the first offer.

What you do speaks so loudly that I can't hear you.

You always have to think of the positive impact that the negotiation could have on the


Seek first to understand.

● How to channel your inner author: writing a cookbook

○ Cheryl Day-An adorable bada$$, and the author of New York Times bestseller, The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook (click here.)

○ Vivian Howard- Four-time James Beard Foundation (JBF) Award semi-finalist and the winner of the JBF Best Television Personality Award. She is also a mom, and has a glowing soul. One of my biggest dreams is to cook with her. Let's see how THAT dream progresses, shall we? (click here.)

○ Jenn Louis- A Top Chef competitor on Bravo, an IACP award-winning cookbook author, cooking instructor and an absolute energizer bunny. A lady who has a soul that lit up FAB! (click here.)

○ Moderator: Lisa Marie Donovan- a HUSTLER. She is a pastry chef and James Beard award winning food writer living in Nashville, TN. Music and pastry? Sign me up, please. (click here.)

Write a cookbook so that people can grow in their own homes, not to make them


Things are published with errors in them sometimes.

When writing recipes, write about what the food should look like physically, give CLUES

often. Write visuals and draw timelines of what the cooking should look like.

To hire a recipe tester, it can cost you between $100-$150 per recipe.

When receiving your advance ($ ahead of time given to you to start working on book),

make sure you include the money needed for recipe testing.

Do not get a lump sum necessarily.

Don’t leave out the cost of someone that'll help you write and edit it.

● How to grow soundly and strategically: grow it, don’t blow it

○ Karalee Fallert- Restaurateur in Charleston, who has founded Taco Boy, Monza, Closed for Business, The Park Cafe and The Royal American. She has a presence about her that is immediately empowering (click here.)

○ Lauren Bailey- CEO and Co-founder of Upward Projects. Her bright hair, fierce persona is commanding, yet genuine and approachable (click here.)

○ Ellen Yin- Founder and co-owner of High Street Hospitality Group in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she has much wisdom to share, and had the audience hungry for a taste of one of their creations (click here.)

○ Katie Button- executive chef and CEO of Button Restaurants. When we met, we SWORE we knew eachother. Truthfully, I think I was infatuated by the fact that her and her mom look like twins, and fun a beautiful business, at the same time (click here.)

○ Moderator: Kristen Barnett

● How to pass it on: being a mentor

○ Deborah Harris- Director of the Deborah Harris Agency, who cofounded The Domino Press (click here.)

○ Barbara Lynch- A restaurateur who has a boldness that makes heads turn. In 2007, she was named by Time Magazine to be one of the " Top 100 Most Influential People of the Year" (click here.)

○ Caryl Chinn- A smiley, empowering West Coast-based consultant, with

○ Kristen Essig- A New Orleans-based chef and restaurateur, she was nominated by the James Beard Foundation as the Best Chef : South. She is someone who texted me and asked for my mailing address so that she could write me a handwritten letter. Penpals with Kristen Essig? Yes, please (click here.)

○ Moderator: Jodi Liano- Owner of San Francisco Cooking School, Jodi has an inviting persona, and many years working in a cooking school under her belt before she opened up her very own (click here.)

A thank you note probably costs 50 cents. Send 2 a day, that is one dollar a day.

Do it.

● How to build an unforgettable brand

○ Camille Becerra- A food stylist with a unique eye, she captures foood in their rawest, most exotic form. She has even cooked for cancer patients and monks (click here.)

○ Kelly Fields- The Chef Owner of Willa Jean in New Orleans, Louisiana, she has a sense of humor and bluntness mixed with a sparkle in her eyes that makes anyone who has the opportunity to speak with her feel at home (click here.)

○ Krystal Mack- A culinary artist, writer, consultant and creating goddess. Her voice seems to bounce through the rooms in which she speaks, singing songs of inspiration and positivity (click here.)

○ Allison Cooke- Principal and Director of Hospitality Design at CORE. She can make a room , building, restaurant, hotel or office look pretty, really pretty (click here.) ○ Moderator: Sam Appel- Managing Director of Care of Chan, a branding agency for food- related businesses. Young, able and confident, Sam was my partner while we were in line for Aperol Spritzes. What is all the recent hate against those drinks all about anyway?? (click here.)

With your branding, find a balance between trying to fill a void and advancing

your own personality brand. My goal isn't to have a curated life- I want the DIY to be avail

on my social media.

I have a brand about what I have learned, not so much my own persona. Be a

leader in other areas other than food.

Your business branding should include the total experience- including your

employee experience, not just your client/customer experience.

Maybe try including the sensory experience in your recipes, not just the instructional.

● How to boost your business with PR and storytelling

○ Helen Medvedovsky- COO of Becca PR, explains the in and outs of PR with integrity and experience (click here.)

○ Katy Kindred- Co- owner of Kindred in Davidson, NC.

○ Vivian Howard

○ Moderator: Dana Cowin- Host of podcast 'Speaking Broadly.' A seff- described culinary connector & consultant. She is the Ex-Editor-in-Chief of Food & Wine (click here.)

Use PR to get in the door… you should do your own story telling.

Know your values on social media and know your brand pillars.

Be specific with what you want when working with a PR company.

Build brands and relationships by saying thank you.

Do not wait for people to come to you.

Go to food events, but really focus on going to an event where you will be the only food


In your story, find the thing about you or your life with a big enough purpose that is the

reason you exist. Truly significant stories that are personal but connected to the

community are the ones that people are interested in.

● How to not overcommit, overwork and overload: mental and physical wellness

○ Danielle Gould- Founder of Food+Tech Connect, and co-founder and co-CEO of Alpha Food Labs, a community-driven platform for building and launching deliciously healthy and sustainable food companies (click here).

○ Elise Kornack-Previous owner of Take Root, a small tasting menu restaurant, which her and her wife, Anna Hieronimus ran together. She is a recipe developer and mental health advocate (click here.)

○ Jenn Louis- As if we couldn't rave about her enough, she was also on Top Chef Masters. Sheesh!

○ Moderator: Julia Sullivan- Chef of Henrietta Red in Nashville, her cooking style makes me want to pull on a pair of cowgirl boots and book it down to Nashville myself! (click here.)

Pick events to attend that have high value.

Ask employees what else they are talented in or what else they enjoy outside of food that

they could contribute to the company that can add value and cut the company's costs.

Physical symptoms are just as important as emotional feelings, listen to both!

I wrote this blog post to share an event that really impacted the way I think about my own career, and I found it to be a great opportunity to continue learning.


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