ATLANTA: CHEF DEBORAH VANTRECE, TWISTED SOUL
On Getting Involved with Let’s Talk:
As a female entrepreneur, it has always been a challenge maneuvering in the male dominated arena that is the food industry. What Rohini Dey has created with Let’s Talk is a safe place of empowerment, strength, and visibility—where we can join forces to leverage our opportunities.
What makes Twisted Soul Unique?
Twisted Soul tells the story of my life through the lens of food. I can take people on the trip that is my life. From the traditional basis of my food, one gets a sense of my upbringing; new and interesting taste pairings are representative of my travels; and the standard that I work hard to maintain from service to the dishes are reflective of my professional training.
The Importance Of Women’s History Month:
I have found that the strength of the many has the power to knock down those barriers. The strength of many individual women have begun to level the playing field. We must continue to make these strides to keep the doors open and obtainable for future generations of women. If we are not for each other, who else will be for us?
What are you cooking up for the event?
Springer Mountain chicken, tasso & andouille red eye veloute, red bean ravioli, and braised collards with heirloom tomato.
HOUSTON: TRACY VAUGHT, CARACOL
How did you go from geologist to restaurateur?
I love food. Geology got to me, being mostly office work. It didn’t suit me after a while. I wanted to own my own business.
What makes Caracol unique?
Caracol is Mexican seafood. We got the idea after my husband, Hugo, and his brother traveled all over Mexico while writing a book.
What is your team cooking up for the event?
We will be preparing raw and roasted oysters.
Rohini Dey, the founder of Let’s Talk, says you’re fierce.
I don’t think of myself that way. I agonize over every decision I make. Ha!
On Women’s History Month:
I wasn’t sure I was the best choice for this. I am a person who just “gets on with it.” I work around obstacles. I believe the most important thing I can offer is a helping hand to those trying to open their own business or who are facing challenges. I have been in the business for 38 years and have encountered almost every challenge.
BOSTON: CHEF TRACY CHANG, PAGU
On the origins of PAGU:
I wanted an extension of my living room, a place to host friends and family to enjoy food, drinks, and all the delightful surprises and collaborations that may sprout from those gatherings. In the past five years of our existence, we have evolved to be a hub for food + community + collaboration in ways that I did not imagine. We started two nonprofits during Covid, one to feed essential workers, and another to pack groceries for communities in need. I’ve witnessed that the power of those core tenets I established are absolutely beyond the four walls of my restaurant, and communities that bring together other leaders, like Let’s Talk, have re-affirmed that.
In what ways did your grandmother inspire you?
My maternal grandmother owned and operated a restaurant for two decades in Cambridge, when she was in her 60s, just shortly after she arrived to this country from Taiwan. She had no restaurant experience; she had been a midwife all her life in Taiwan. She spoke no English, but spoke multiple dialects of Chinese as well as Japanese. She led by example, showing me at an early age how to gather people from all cultures, to create a welcoming hearth, rooted in delicious food, as well as cultural diversity and acceptance. I have fond memories practicing my Spanish with her Guatemalan bartender, Tony, and wanting to learn to make Shirley Temples. Now PAGU is 70%+ Latinx and 70%+ women and we’re proud of it.
What’s on the menu at the Let’s Talk event in Boston?
I’m making citrus olive oil polenta cake with berry vermouth sauce.
Growing up, I was always an athlete in team sports like soccer, basketball and lacrosse. I captained several teams and coached as well. I think that kind of upbringing in my formative years really shaped my personality to be people-centric, an empath, and “a team player.” As an adult, it’s less about competition in regards to beating an opponent, and more about collaboration as a team, to be the best versions of ourselves, better than yesterday.