The Top Chef judge also talked to Food & Wine about the path to inclusivity in the restaurant industry.
When Top Chef judge Gail Simmons first heard about Supernatural sprinkles—which are completely free of artificial dyes and preservatives—from the company’s founder, Carmel Hagen, she was intrigued. Simmons had trouble finding an allergen, addictive-free option for decorating the baked goods she often creates with her 4-year-old daughter, Dahlia. Supernatural gave her an alternative she could use in good conscience. Now, Supernatural is partnering with Pie Shell (a crowd-funding platform for food businesses) in honor of Women’s History Month, on a new line of sprinkles called Girl Pow! Simmons immediately decided she wanted to help advocate for the project.
Simmons calls Supernatural “relevant and modern,” not just for their health-conscious ingredients, but because 100% of profits from the new Girl Pow! sprinkles go to the non-profit Girls Who Code, which offers free coding classes for women. The sprinkles, which are a mix of boxing gloves and stars in primary colors, are available for pre-sale today—and as far as Simmons is concerned, do far more than fund coding programs for girls.
“It gets children of all ages, women and men, really excited about getting in the kitchen,” she says. “But it has an even greater cause, which runs much farther beyond the kitchen, into the world of technology and really empowers young women to start something new.”
While the Girls Who Code organization might not have a direct impact on the food and restaurant industry, Simmons says that the partnership resonates with her because she recognizes that “every girl is more than one thing.” She hopes that an initiative like Girl Pow!, which has its roots in the cooking sphere but benefits the technology industry, can show young women that if you “work hard and follow opportunity, you can do anything you want to do regardless of what space you’re in.”
In fact, Simmons sees many commonalities between the two spheres: Historically, both industries have been dominated by men, even the start-ups.
“It’s time we taught our girls that that’s not how technology has to work, that’s not how kitchens have to work, and that we can achieve greatness,” she says.
The Girl Pow! message is one that Simmons calls “simple, happy, and positive.” Sprinkles “spread sunshine and sweetness and fun” around the kitchen, so not only does buying them support a good cause, it might also help you get your family, especially the youngest members, into the kitchen more often. Simmons says that when she and her daughter use Girl Pow!, they’re supporting the powerful message behind the sprinkles, while also getting Dahlia “excited to about baking with me.” Plus, parents can rest assured that they don’t have to worry about feeding their children decorations packed with sugar and chemical-based ingredients.
These are concerns that have become all the more pressing to Simmons post-motherhood (she’s currently expecting her second child).
“As the parent of a young girl, there’s no way that you can wade your way through the world and not be so cognizant of the challenges that they’ll face,” she explains. “I’m so conscious of the lessons that I teach [my daughter], and the projects that I get involved with that not only set an example for her, but hopefully will have an impact on the way her generation is raised, as our mothers did for us when they were fighting for equal rights.”
As the restaurant industry reels from multiple allegations of abuse from some of its most powerful members, even small scale efforts like Girl Pow! feel like a necessary balm for the continued exclusion of women from professional kitchens. Simmons says she does see a way forward for the restaurant industry—but she warns that it won’t be easy.
“I don’t see a clear path, but I see a possible path. If it was clear, we would have done it a long time ago,” she says. “There have been restaurants for 200 years, but there have only been women speaking out and finding their place in them for the past 20 or 40 years, so it’s going to take some time to find equality.”
Still, Simmons says that the restaurant industry is changing, and that even the past year, great strides have been made “in creating a space for women to speak and to work.” Though she thinks that the industry still has a long way to go, projects like Girl Pow! are small steps in the right direction.
“Kitchen jobs are not the only way that women can make an impact on the food industry,” she explains. “Working with women entrepreneurs, like the women who started Supernatural, is the way to promote opportunity and innovation.”