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By Executive Chef Elizabeth Sweeney
As two passionate chefs, Melissa Blanco and I embarked on a culinary journey inspired by our love for tacos and a commitment to inclusive food options. Chef Melissa has traveled to Mexico City, a mecca for tacos with a strong vegan food scene. My mother-in-law is vegan and my wife is plant-based, eating some animal products from time to time. This set the wheels turning for both of us. What emerged was a tribute to women in the culinary industry – the vegan taco, celebrating women and promoting a health-focused lifestyle.
The hospitality industry faced an undeniable reckoning during the pandemic. A key player in confronting these challenges and advocating for women's roles was MAPP Impact. Championing the contributions of women and people of color, MAPP Impact highlighted the gender bias existing within restaurant culture and the food system. The pandemic unveiled the industry's harsh realities, leading to a drastic shift in workforce demographics, particularly for women, who were often burdened with increased household duties.
The unfortunate truth is that the pandemic led nearly 20% of women working in the hospitality industry to leave their roles, a trend that has been slow to reverse. Even more compelling is that despite over half of culinary school graduates being women, less than 10% advance into leadership positions or entrepreneurship. This paradox highlights the challenges women in culinary face, which we strive to address through our vegan tacos.
These vegan tacos symbolize more than just a nutritious meal. They represent a larger narrative of women in the culinary industry, and are an homage to the unyielding spirit of all women working in our industry, from the front to the back of the house. The pink tortillas are a vibrant testament to their relentless effort and immense contribution.
Our tacos are a beacon of health, made with fresh nopales (cactus), roasted poblanos, caramelized onions, masa tempura vegetables, lime-cilantro crema (coconut yogurt-based), macha salsa, and micro cilantro, all served with a pickled pico de gallo. We deliberately excluded processed, plant-based products, which can be high in sodium and fats. This decision aligns with our commitment to prioritize women's health, as they are typically the main caretakers of households but often neglect their own health needs. Our initiative serves as a reminder of the gender disparities in the culinary industry and the importance of addressing these issues.
Joanna James, the brain behind MAPP and the creator of the critically acclaimed documentary 'A Fine Line', has tirelessly worked towards equal rights in the culinary industry. Her efforts have led to extensive recognition and opportunities for women and people of color. MAPP's influence extends to collaborations with media and food & beverage giants, including Oprah Magazine, PBS, The James Beard Foundation, Food & Wine, and Harvard.
MAPP's commitment to advancing women in the culinary industry through mentorship, advocacy for gender and racial equities, pandemic relief grants, and creating representation opportunities is commendable. This inspiring movement, together with our dedication to culinary innovation, presents a promising future for women in the culinary industry. Together, we stand as advocates for women in culinary, dedicated to honoring their contributions and crafting a more equitable, inclusive culinary landscape.
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