7 Things We Learned at Rachael Ray's 'Women in Food' Panel
Rachael Ray Every Day just debuted its second-ever "Like a Boss" issue, which highlights women shaping the food and beverage industry—from bakers and chefs to bartenders and restaurateurs. And to celebrate, Rachael Ray gathered a group of absolute bosses featured in the magazine's pages this month—Anita Jaisinghani (of Pondicheri in Houston and New York City), Nyesha Arrington (of Native in Santa Monica), and Tania Harris (pastry chef at The Lazy Goat in Greenville, South Carolina)—to talk about everything from how to be a good leader to what you should never buy at the grocery store. Here's what we learned.
1. "It's About the Process"
When it comes to learning how to cook, we all have to start somewhere. But, as Ray said, "the people that really have it in their blood, you can't get rid of it. It feels so good to get addicted to it, and that's why you do it." Rachael Ray Every Day editor in chief Lauren Ionnatti added, "some people say food is love, we say cooking is love." Questlove seems to agree! "It's about the process," Ray said. "Questlove will tell you that...It's not about the end result, it's about getting there." In other words, don't stress if that cacio e pepe doesn't quite come together the first (or even the fifth) time—you're getting there.
2. "Everything Matters"
Pondicheri's Anita Jaisinghani is all about looking at the bigger picture. "I'm slowly trying to extract what really matters," she said. "What am I putting on my plate? Am I eating stuff that is tasting damn good, that is really good for me, and that is not ruining nature? Everything matters." Ray added, "Everything on your plate should matter, and you should know where it comes from."
3. "Always Buy by Unit Price"
"In any market—I don't care if it's gourmet, Stop & Shop, Price Chopper, anywhere—you shop high and you shop low, not in the middle," Ray, who used to be a grocery store buyer, told the audience. "Those are slotting fees that people pay to sell you packaging, not product. You always buy by unit price. If the unit price isn't listed, ask for it. Never, ever buy a package. Buy a product. The unit price is the tiny one next to the big one on the shelf."
4. And Never Buy Pre-Chopped Lettuce
"Oh my god, the chopped lettuce in a sack sucks! Stop it!" Ray said. "I'm sorry, sue me lettuce industry. It smells weird and it costs more." Noted!
5. Lead With Empathy
Native's Nyesha Arrington worked for some "super gnarly, pan-throwing" bosses in the Michelin-starred restaurants she came up in—where she learned how not to treat her employees. "I think it just comes down to respect and communication," she said. "The dialogue is growing, and having empathy and all of these things that are human emotions that all tie back to food, and sharing stories, and coming from a real, authentic place is imperative. When you can't harness that and you can't get your message across, that's when all of that angst and craziness builds up...In my kitchen we like to listen to music during prep, we sing along, there are times when I look around and...my heartstrings."
6. Know Your Employees' Jobs Inside and Out
Rachael Ray's mother managed high-profile restaurants for a living, and she had an important rule when it came to assigning tasks to her employees. "She never asked anyone to do something she had not done—she had not performed the task—herself."
7. "You Never Have to Be Done With Your Process"
It's never too late for a second act, and Rachael Ray brought up her friend Tony Bennett as an example. "The man is in his mid-'90s," she said. "A couple years ago he went out with Lady Gaga and was getting $5,000 a ticket on New Year's frickin' Eve. You never have to be done with your process. You can be the mother of five children, or 90-year-old Tony Bennett, and go out and kick some serious ass. You can have that discovery moment at any age."
Watch the full discussion on Facebook, here.