By Maia Welbel
Between sips of Direct Trade coffee and hard kombucha, women at Cherry Bombe Jubilee this April in New York City talked food, business, and how they are making a difference in a male-dominated industry.
The Cherry Bombe Jubilee conference brings together and celebrates women in the food industry. Created by the founders of the indie magazine, Cherry Bombe, the Jubilee turns the tables on the lack of female attendance at the world’s most prestigious food conferences. Founders Kerry Diamond and Claudia Wu host the event and curate a lineup of chefs, bakers, restaurant owners, food writers, and more to speak and socialize.
This year, overlooking the water at Pier 17 in the South Seaport District, guests enjoyed food and beverages all day from Dig Inn, Hot Bread Kitchen, Ramona, Kombrewcha, and other forward thinking food businesses. Home cooking icon Nigella Lawson and Michelin star chef Ruth Rogers headlined the event with other women changemakers in the food world. Panel discussions included “The Future is Female… and So is Right Now,” “Cooking with Love,” and “Bright Lights, Broad Nation.”
Spaces of support for women can be hard to come by in an industry that glorifies men (just 8 percent of Michelin Starred restaurants in New York City are run by women). Jubilee is about cultivating that support.
“We started Jubilee because women were being left out of food conferences taking place around the world and we wanted a day where we could come together, network, make friends, build our community, and discuss the important matters of the day,” Wu and Diamond note on the Cherry Bombe website.
Emily Carter—the Community and Partnerships Manager of Imperfect Produce—attended this year’s Jubilee and says that she’s built her network primarily through Cherry Bombe. She went to her first Jubilee in San Francisco when she first moved to the city last year to forge professional connections. Some of the women she met there became her closest friends.
“It reminded me of college where you can go up to anyone and start a conversation,” Carter says. “There’s no intimidation or pretense, you just jump right in.”
Imperfect Produce sources produce that grocery stores won’t buy because of its appearance and sells it through subscription boxes. Billions of pounds of fruits and vegetable are wasted every year because they don’t meet grocery store standards. Imperfect Produce is working to minimize that.
Like Carter, many Jubilee attendees have dedicated their careers to challenging the food industry status quo. Graphic designer Hannah Lee recently quit her job with Nike to create an online platform that helps people develop more sustainable kitchen habits. Her website, Closed Loop Cooking, will offer resources on composting, cooking seasonally, eating a plant-based diet, and other practices that support waste reduction and minimal resource use.
“I am interested in approaching the topic of sustainable food systems in an accessible way. I came to Jubilee to find out how all of these women in the industry are approaching sustainability,” she says.
Writer and strategist Sara Weinreb got her start working in sustainable fashion, referring to materials and practices that minimally impact the environment. In 2015, she founded an ethically made clothing line where design, sourcing and manufacture is fair and beneficial to the people and communities creating it, again with minimal environmental impact. She has since transitioned to focusing on sustainable food. Her popular blog and newsletter help people make more environmentally conscious food and lifestyle choices.
She advocates simple changes, such as buying pantry staples in bulk instead of plastic packaging, and choosing to purchase from food brands that are transparent about how they source their products. Weinreb comes from a business and entrepreneurship background, and she is interested in how small sustainable food companies can scale up to operate like large profitable brands without compromising their values.
Even as a specialist in this field, Weinreb sometimes feels overwhelmed by the lack of environmental consciousness in the food industry. “It’s a huge system and sometimes it feels like the more you know the worse it is,” she says.
Carter is hopeful. “Our generation is really interested in voting with their dollars, and I think people are starting to care more about how our food systems impact the environment,” she says.
Women in the food industry are fighting not just for equal representation, but for a more enlightened food system. Jubilee provides a platform to communicate, refine, and grow these efforts. “We all intersect in this community, and we all depend on each other to make progress,” says Carter.