Our Stories

Building a Fair and Equitable Industry, One Table at a Time


Approximately 145,115 chefs are currently employed in America today, 25.8% of whom are women. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2019, just 24% of head chefs and cooks were female; according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, female chefs made only 76 cents to each dollar that male chefs did.

Prior to COVID-19, women owned one in three restaurants (National Restaurant Association.) Approximately one in six restaurants closed during the pandemic—almost certainly a direct hit on women-owned businesses and a huge blow to the country’s second largest private sector employer, representing $2 trillion of the U.S. economy.

In addition to the huge cultural, social and community impact the restaurant industry has on our country, its economic contribution is tremendous. Sadly, this industry also leads in unfortunate statistics like incidents of sexual harassment and lack of health care, retirement benefits, childcare and equal pay.

Advancing Female Leadership in The Culinary Arts

Without female executive leadership or gender equity in the hospitality industry, it’s hard to imagine having any influence in policy change—which is why EDENS’s CEO Jodie W. McLean helped launch the Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Program (WEL) as part of the James Beard Foundation’s (JBF) suite of scholarships, mentorship and training programs designed for women-identifying and non-binary professionals in the hospitality industry.

Designed in partnership with JBF, WEL is an advanced educational, training and networking program for women chefs/owners of one or more restaurants or food businesses looking to expand and grow. Going into its sixth year, the express goal of our partnership with JBF is to inspire women to think big and use their power to change this industry as the vanguard of conscious leadership.

Each WEL cohort is comprised of 20 participants. The 2021 cohort was announced last fall, following a brief application period. This year’s program, the first to be created in conjunction with Cornell University, included sessions over a ten-week period on negotiating, design thinking, business and financial models, fundraising, and more. In addition to live virtual sessions led by Cornell faculty from across the university, James Beard staff, and other subject matter expert facilitators, WEL students were able to select an elective from Cornell’s External Education program.

WEL Summit 2022 @ Union Market District

WEL alumnae form lasting relationships and a strong community, with ongoing opportunities to connect beyond the classroom and throughout the year—a critical function during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the program pivoted to an all-virtual environment. WEL alumnae initiate their own convenings and are given access to many of JBF’s exclusive events. This month, the annual WEL Summit will take place in person for the first time in two years at Union Market District in Washington, DC. We are expecting an estimated 100 attendees on April 11 for a full program of inspiring keynotes by industry leaders alongside thought-leadership sessions.

“The Women’s Leadership Program (WLP) is a conduit for women creating change at the grassroots level to close the gender and racial pay gaps,” said Zoe Adjonyo, WLP program director at the James Beard Foundation. “We don’t have time to wait for policy shifts. Women are building and rebuilding their own tables for a fairer, holistic hospitality career.”

Sunday Supper 2017 event outside

Mark Your Calendars

This year, Sunday Supper will be held on June 5 at Dock 5 in Union Market District. Since its inception in 2012, Sunday Supper has remained rooted in the tradition of gathering around the table, celebrating the community built at Union Market. Additionally, we have remained steadfast in our desire to raise awareness for the continued need of diversity in the executive ranks of the culinary industry as well as celebrate the achievements of women chefs and culinary professionals and create more opportunities for this community to excel as industry leaders and policy makers.

Since 2016, WEL has been the primary beneficiary of these events, from which scholarship money is raised to help subsidize participation.