Chef Erica Beneke has made quite a splash on the Austin’s restaurant scene since joining the Max’s Wine Dive team. She first won Chefs Under Fire in 2010, then bested her competitors on the cooking show Chopped this summer. On August 24, she flexed her culinary muscle again by hosting Eat.Drink.Empower, an all-female chef dinner benefiting SafePlace.
A dinner featuring only women chefs is unique in the often male-dominated culinary world. “The idea for the dinner started about a year ago with a conversation about how to bring more attention to the female chefs in Austin,” said Beneke. “There are many of us, but a lot of people aren’t really aware of us.”
Beneke selected SafePlace, a local nonprofit focused on ending domestic violence, as the beneficiary of the event after reading that the group had a dip in donations. “The majority of what they do is to help women and children, so it seemed like a natural fit with the whole theme of female empowerment,” said Beneke. Delighted with the success of the dinner, Beneke plans to make it an annual event.
The other participating chefs included Kenzie Allen of Searsucker, Bridget Bishop of Westwood Country Club, Alexis Chong of Sway, Jodi Elliott of Foreign & Domestic, Hannah Love of Clark’s and Perla’s, and Abby Yates of Swift’s Attic. Each chef prepared a course that showed off her personal style in the kitchen, and every dish was expertly paired with wine by the Max’s team.
Approximately 100 guests enjoyed passed appetizers from Bishop and the “Oui, Chef” cocktail made with gin, Lillet and champagne prepared by Jessica Sanders of Drink.Well. The reception was followed by a decadent five-course dinner comprising a quinoa salad from Allen, melon coconut soup from Chong, miso-cured red snapper by Yates, braised lamb from Beneke, and a trio of desserts by Love. In case that wasn’t enough indulgence, the gift bags included a sweet treat from Elliott.
With a crowd this large, the chefs had help from some of their current and former colleagues. Chef Jason Donoho of Alamo Drafthouse served as a sous chef for Allen, his former protege at ASTI. “I couldn’t let the ladies have all the fun, and I was thrilled to support Kenzie like she did for me,” he said.
After the last dish was served, the chefs emerged from the kitchen to a standing ovation. These women proved that they mean serious business, and the guests could taste it in every carefully prepared bite.