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The Future is Female f you have to work on a Monday morning, Fearrington Village is not a bad place to do it. On a beautiful day in April, photographer Beth Mann and I drove down 15-

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chapelhillmagazine.com

May/June 2019

501 to photograph and interview some of the founding members of Les Dames d’Escoffier North Carolina, a group of women in the food, beverage and hospitality industry. Around a table at The Belted Goat, we met Moreton Neal, Nancie McDermott, Keebe Fitch, Spring Council and Sharon Van Vechten. Our conversation moved from small talk to recipes to the group’s recent fundraiser, until Moreton posed a more provocative topic for the table: “Do you think women face the same kind of discrimination now that they did 10 or 15 years ago, or are we beyond that?” Sharon replied, “If you talk to people who have cooked in kitchens all over, people put up with [harassment in the kitchen]. But I think it drove a lot of people out of the business, too. I think now there’s really a voice out there for treating women in the kitchen with respect and as equals because they have equal credentials, equal talents, equal ability, equal work ethic.” Progress, she said, was “getting things out in the light and having it addressed as an industry problem.” Spring’s mother, Mama Dip, sometimes found kitchen help with prisoners on work release, a unique dynamic, she said, with universal lessons. “You really have to be tough because [some men] will pretty much try to [intimidate] you or let you know, ‘No, you can’t tell me what to do.’ I would walk in the kitchen, and they would just stick out their chests. And as I was thinking to myself, ‘Maybe that’s what they do in a prison yard.’ One day I came in and said, ‘I see you sticking out your chest. That doesn’t bother me not one bit.’ And then he stopped doing it.” Where and how women find empowerment has always been at the heart of our annual Women’s Issue. This month, in our sixth edition, we meet 14 women who, including the Dames, have seen setbacks and success. One theme that recurs time and again is that women thrive when they stick together. As Nancie said, “You know, there’s the old boys network. We’re the big girls network.” CHM

 jessica@chapelhillmagazine.com

T HE COVER P hotogra phed by B et h M a nn at A LOFT Cha pel Hill

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Chapel Hilll Magazine May/June 2019  

THE WOMEN’S ISSUE

Chapel Hilll Magazine May/June 2019  

THE WOMEN’S ISSUE