Women of the Knife: Six local chefs collaborating at Nola MOCA

Chef Kathy Collins, Photo by @brandihillcom

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On August 19th Nola at the MOCA will be holding a dinner to celebrate the First Coast’s Women of the Knife. Six of our female chefs will wow your taste buds with their culinary creations.

The event is the brain-child of both Chef Kathy Collins and Mico Fuentes, the Dining Room and Event Manager of Nola MOCA. They came up with the idea because of the focus on women in the Women of Abstraction exhibition in the MOCA Jacksonville gallery. The chef’s list was chosen based on female chefs Collins had enjoyed working with in the past, and chefs she’s been wanting to work with. Chef Collins has been cooking at Nola since 2005, and is a graduate of the Le Cordon Bleu School in Chicago. The partial beneficiary of this event is PACE Center for Girls, which provides girls & young women an opportunity for a better future through education, counseling, and advocacy.

The profession of head chef has largely been the purview of men for centuries, but that’s beginning to change, albeit slowly. Despite a large number of female grads from culinary programs, the percentage of female chefs around the world is still low, as are the number of female chefs with Michelin Stars. Even as more and more female celebrity chefs have come to the fore in media, there’s still a strange dichotomy at work. Female food celebrities mainly focus on the love of cooking and family (Paula Deen, Ina Garten), while the male ones hone in on risk and adventure, a la Anthony Bourdain. There are exceptions, of course, and we are seeing more of those exceptions, but these ladies and gentlemen are playing to public expectations of gender. Some of those exceptions can be found, not under hot studio lights, but over the pans and stoves of professional kitchens throughout the country, and all over the First Coast.

The Women of the Knife dinner features six chefs: Margie Ashens, chef de cuisine from North Beach Fish Camp (serving a tuna-based creation), Liz Grenamyer, chef/owner of Catering by Liz (presenting a shellfish dish), Jeanne Pettijohn, executive chef of the Wine Cellar (duck), Kathy Collins executive chef at Nola MOCA (beef), Angie Ziebarth, chef/owner of Balefire Brasserie (pork belly) and Calli Marie Webb, food program manager at Brew (cake).

Angie Ziebarth of Balefire Brasserie, Photo by @brandihillcom for Nola MOCA Women Behind the Knife
Angie Ziebarth of Balefire Brasserie, Photo by @brandihillcom

If you’re familiar with the food scene here in Jacksonville, more than one name on this august list of chefs is bound to make you at least a little bit hungry. Chef Margie Ashens is a major creative force behind the menus at the Fish Camps, mainly North Beach Fish Camp, which can be found in Neptune Beach. Calli Marie Webb, a local food phenom in her 20s, is responsible for the food at Brew, and she’s already launched a cookbook, Calli Marie Bakes. Angie Ziebarth opened her restaurant, Balefire Brasserie in St. Augustine on Anastasia Island, after working at several fine-dining establishments in Louisville, Kentucky, including Seviche.

Jeanne Peyttjohn of the Wine Cellar, Photo by @brandihillcom for Nola MOCA Women Behind the Knife
Jeanne Peyttjohn of the Wine Cellar, Photo by @brandihillcom

“I think that 20 years ago women chefs were making their breakout in the food industry. Somewhere in the times between Alice Waters “food to table” philosophy and the beginning of the FoodTV era, Julia Child had just just filmed her first segment of “Baking with Julia.” For me, seeing these women chefs in the kitchen on tv was very inspiring…The vision of women chefs became much more glamorized,”

Chef Jeanne Pettijohn of the Wine Cellar says that her inspiration came from female chefs on television. Today there are a wealth of female chefs in media, but it wasn’t always so. “I think that 20 years ago women chefs were making their breakout in the food industry. Somewhere in the times between Alice Waters “food to table” philosophy and the beginning of the FoodTV era, Julia Child had just just filmed her first segment of “Baking with Julia.” For me, seeing these women chefs in the kitchen on tv was very inspiring…The vision of women chefs became much more glamorized,” says Pettijohn.

Liz Grenamyer of Catering by Liz, Photo by @brandihillcom for Nola MOCA Women Behind the Knife
Liz Grenamyer, Photo by @brandihillcom

“A lot has changed,” she says “and there are a lot more of us in this area than there used to be.”

While she hesitates to call herself a pioneer, Chef Liz Grenamyer, was one of few female chefs in Jacksonville 30 years ago. When she was the chef at Sterling’s, she says that when vendors came around they would talk to all of the male staff before they realized she was in charge. “A lot has changed,” she says “and there are a lot more of us in this area than there used to be.”

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Cost: $125

Includes a six-course meal made by six of the First Coast premier female chefs. Go to http://mocajacksonville.unf.edu/events/NOLA-MOCA-s-Women-of-the-Knife/ or search eventbrite.com for tickets.

About Erin Thursby