The restaurant scene used to be dominated by men. Not anymore. Here are some thoughts from the women who are changing the face of the dining industry and the flavors of our local scene.
Annie Pettry, Chef and owner, Decca
Challenges: For the longest time, I was working to be my best and I ignored any difficulties that were specific to being female. On reflection, I’m trying to see if there were things I was ignoring. If I can look back and figure out how I coped and came out positively, maybe that could help someone in the future.
People ask how I balance work and home. I don’t think you can separate them. They have to be combined. I travel a lot for work and try to find little moments for me, like eating in a restaurant or going on a walk.
Philosophy: My style is to be in the moment, to be hyperseasonal and find what ingredient is at its best and accentuate it by using it in multiple ways or pairing it in ways to make the flavors sing. Also important to me is knowing the source of ingredients and knowing that they were cared for and raised properly.
Iconic dishes: Our wood-grilled broccoli was a hit from day one. It’s tossed in an acidic anchovy vinaigrette that balances the smoke from the grill, and there are almonds roasted with fleur del sel and olive oil. And, although it’s available only during citrus season, customers ask for the baby kale and Brussels sprout salad all year. The dish shows a spectrum of citrus. People freak out over it.
Proudest accomplishment: Being part of the team and the culture I have created at Decca is my proudest accomplishment.
Personal impact on dining scene? I don’t go around looking for the impact we have made on local dining during the past six-and-a-half years. I think we just focus on constantly making sure we’re raising our own bar and pushing ourselves.
Decca • 812 E. Market • 502-749-8128
Annemarie Greipel, Co-owner and Pastry Chef, Gasthaus
Women tend to be more organized in the kitchen and in the front of the house. It’s our nature. It’s easier to work efficiently if you’re organized. Very often, the opposite sex doesn’t see that although that doesn’t mean they don’t work just as hard.
Challenges: When my husband and I came from Germany we thought we could borrow money from a bank to get started. Being good Germans, we dressed up and went to the bank with a business plan. I think they just laughed at us. But, believe it or not, our business plan came true.
Philosophy: My philosophy of cooking and baking is to use the very best ingredients, work efficiently and don’t try to overdo it. Don’t go out of your way to create exotic things no one knows about. People come here and expect desserts that we would sell in Germany.
Iconic dishes: Gasthaus’ iconic deserts are Black Forest cake; apple strudel; lemon, chocolate and strawberry rolls; strawberry Napoleon; and anything with chocolate and whipped cream.
Proudest accomplishments: My children have been part of the business. At college graduation, they walked across the stage, across the parking lot, into the car and back to work. We had a note on the door of the restaurant that said, “Due to graduation we are opening at 6:30 instead of 6:00.”
We will celebrate our 25th anniversary in business on December 18. This business is very hard work. You have to live it, and we do.
Gasthaus • 4812 Brownboro Center • 502-899-7177
Coby Ming, Chef, Pine Room
Challenges: I have had only a few experiences where I may have felt a little pushback from the men in the kitchen. But, I have had the support of my crew who stepped in before I needed to do anything about it.
There are a ton of restaurants in Louisville. Finding good, quality people who are into it and for whom you don’t have to babysit is always a challenge.
Philosophy: My style waxes and wanes with what looks good in the season, and I get in moods. Now I’m craving Asian, so I’m leaning toward Asian flavors. At the Pine Room we’re updating classics to a certain degree. I’ll always have splashes of southern in my food. Being playful with food is what I’ve been having fun with lately.
Iconic dishes: The Pine Room will be a neighborhood restaurant that’s very friendly, with a menu that has plenty of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options. Even the donut fritters on the brunch menu will be gluten-free. We’ll have a good steak, a burger and fried chicken. Instead of mashed potatoes and gravy, we’re doing a cauliflower purée. All our proteins will be nonhormonal and steroid-free.
Proudest accomplishments: This opportunity at the Pine Room came out of nowhere. I was in a good spot at Wiltshire at the Speed. Because of owner Augusta Holland’s passion and her drive and her organization, I was curious to see what this possibility could lead to. I think we can really set ourselves apart.
Augusta and I want to find ways to make our industry better. I have a friend who’s a Pilates yoga instructor. She’s going to come in to do a stretch session to encourage team building and to take care of ourselves so we can be in good spirits. It’s physical work in a restaurant. We have to treat it like we’re athletes.
Pine Room • 6325 River Road • 502-528-4422
Chavantee Snow, Chef and owner, Thai Café
Background: Becoming a chef and restaurateur has been a life changing experience. I learned to cook from my grandmother when I was growing up in Thailand. That experience was unique because she was a lady-in-waiting in the royal palace.
There are more and more women interested in cooking as a profession in Thailand. It isn’t a male-dominated profession. While I was working at a Thai restaurant in Louisville, my husband, Billy, and I began traveling. Going to Arun’s, a famous Thai restaurant in Chicago, was an a ha! moment for me. I thought, “I can do this, and I can do it better.” That’s what prompted me to open Thai Café.
Philosophy: My menu features primarily traditional Thai dishes that are found in Bangkok and other areas in Central Thailand. Some of the dishes are very simple while others have many levels of flavors.
Iconic dish: Although Pad Thai is the most popular dish at the restaurant, I encourage our guests to explore the many tastes of Thai cooking. One of the questions I’m most often asked is, “Isn’t Thai food very spicy?” The answer to that is no. Of course, if customers request some added spiciness, we’re happy to accommodate them. But, spicy does not always mean flavorful.
Proudest accomplishment: My proudest accomplishment is that Thai Café is celebrating our twenty-fourth year in business. It’s exciting to have that history and it’s even more exciting to have a place in Louisville’s fantastic restaurant community.
Thai Café • 2226 Holiday Manor • 502-425-4815
Kathy Cary, Chef and owner, Lilly’s
I have been doing this for 40-odd years. I’m proud of that. Back in the day, it wasn’t as normal as it is now for a woman to be head of a kitchen.
Challenges: Every decade has had its hurdles, but they have been hurdles that are manageable. I like to think Lilly’s and La Peche are still here because of the way my husband and I have treated people and have recruited good team members. Dealing with the different personalities of the staff in the front and back of the house, the bakery and management can be a challenge. You want to be sure the customer never sees any of that.
It’s also a constant challenge to watch food and labor costs and, my gosh, trying to get some kind of profit going. But keeping my life a little sane is the biggest challenge. My husband and I made a vow to never talk about work on Sundays. It’s a true day off when we focus on family and friends.
Philosophy: I’ve always tried to interpret traditional things I grew up with and turn them into something a little better. I think of it as comfort food taken up a notch. We have no strict cuisine rules here. I like to follow my inspiration from traveling to other countries, but never vary from using fresh, quality ingredients.
Most iconic dishes: Our chicken pot pie, fried oysters and grits, caramel cake and crème brûlée have become some of the dishes that people associate with Lilly’s. The shrimp and grits dish we have on the menu now is a real destination dish.
Proudest accomplishments: Cooking six times at the James Beard House was a very big deal. And being nominated seven times for Best Chef in the Southeast meant a lot to me and to the restaurant. If I don’t get nominated again, that’s fine. I have had my glory. I just want to do good things and keep moving on.
Lilly’s • 1147 Bardstown Road • 502-451-0447