Moms have a special place in the kitchen, preparing the family meals and building relationships. Their presence is more pronounced in households than in the restaurant industry, due to the time-consuming demands and odd-hours. But some moms can do it all, and here, we share five examples of powerful moms who are raising families and working in Atlanta’s culinary scene.
Chef/Owner, Spice to Table
One son: Ethan (11)
It came as a surprise when Asha Gomez closed Cardamom Hill last July, but many fans don’t know that the it was for a man… a little man. Her son Ethan.
“I wanted to remain in the industry, but now when my son comes home from school, I get to be a mom,” says Gomez. “That was something I was not willing to compromise on.”
Since Gomez adopted Ethan from an Indian orphanage seven years ago, she’s developed a new level of responsible. “All of a sudden you have this stewardship to not just your child, but to the earth as a whole. Everything you do affects your child.”
Gomez believes its important to show children the source of where their food comes from, so as they grow older they can become stewards of the earth. She takes Ethan to meet farmers, and the pair tend to a garden.
“He’s a resilient child and he’s my hero. He’s the reason I wake up every morning and do what I do.”
Executive Chef, 10 Degrees South
One son: Justin (42), owner
The Anthony family, natives of South Africa, has remained together working under one roof at 10 Degrees South since its opening 17 years ago.
“It was Justin’s idea to open the restaurant,” says Diane. “He always enjoyed the meals I cooked at home. We wanted Atlanta to experience the beauty and diversity in the food and wine of South Africa.”
Diane helms the kitchen as executive chef to craft a culturally influenced menu that touches not just on South African cuisine, but also Dutch and Indian flavors. Justin oversees restaurant operations, and as for her husband Derek, he’s the sauce master, known for 10 Degrees South’s spicy peri-peri signature sauce.
“I love working with my son. Justin brings balance and calm to the craziness of the kitchen. I don't think you ever stop being a mom though; I'm always on him about something or the other. But we enjoy working as a family.”
Chef/Restauranteur, Souper Jenny, Café Jonah and Juicy Jenny
One son: Jonah (11)
If you’re mom is a successful restaurateur, ask her to name a restaurant after you. That’s what Jenny Levison’s son did, and alas, Café Jonah got its name. Levison has grown from one Souper Jenny location to a trio of concepts in six locations.
“When Jonah was much younger, I couldn’t take him to preschool,” says Levison. “But now that we’ve been open longer, I’ve been able to surround myself with an incredible team and I have that time to spend with him.”
Jonah has contributed to Planet Jenny restaurants in more ways than his name.“He’s very social and that’s an important part of this industry. He doesn’t realize it now, but his presence is part of something that is bigger than himself. He has helped his mom build a sense of community.”
Pastry Chef, UMI
Four children: Daniel (12), Alec (14), Emma (16), Hannah (18); and two stepchildren: Hiro (15) and Katsu (20)
Lisa Ito had four children in less than six years, so when she married UMI executive chef Fuyuhiko Ito, gaining two step-children didn’t pose a problem. Lisa ran a cake catering business from her home so that she could actively raise her children.
“I was changing baby diapers-most of time in two different sizes- for at least eight years,” says Lisa. “Now that they are teenagers, they give me just as many headaches from worrying.”
After moving to Atlanta, she resurrected her baking expertise as pastry chef at UMI. “I have become a mother figure for the staff at UMI. It seems like I have children everywhere!”
Even though Ito’s children are older, she still feels guilty when she is not home in the evenings. “I’ve become creative: I always cook their dinner before I come to work. I believe that nothing is better than mom's cooking with love.”
Owner/Operator, The Bishop
One son: Bishop, 11
Family is in the name at Avondale Estates’ restaurant The Bishop. Bishop is the name of owner and operator Luellen Marshall’s son and her grandfather. Throughout the past year, Marshall balanced the duties of opening a restaurant with raising Bishop. She was creative: worked at the restaurant during school hours, then spent a few hours after school with Bishop before returning for dinner service.
“My husband and I engaged Bishop at every level,” says Luellen. “Now he’ll ask me how the restaurant’s sales are each day.”
Luellen boasts that hospitality was in her DNA, as her mom instilled party planning and made-from-scratch food into her childhood, and she believes Bishop shares the gene.
“As a mom, the more I can integrate my son about being gracious and hospitable in all aspects, these are life lessons as well.”
Co-Owner, Watershed on Peachtree
One daughter: Cleo (2)
Emily Saliers is better known for her “day job” as part of the Grammy-winning pair The Indigo Girls. But the Decatur native and Emory University grad has been a managing partner in Watershed since its initial opening in Decatur, where she is a part of the larger decisions made at the restaurant.
“While both the music and restaurant industries might seem somewhat glamorous, they require a lot of hard work and dedication,” says Saliers. “I think you really have to love playing music and love providing good food for people in order to navigate the challenges of both industries.”
Saliers’ says her wife and partner, Tristin, has been an instrumental support system to help balance her schedules among the two industries. Her daughter may be young, but she has a successful mom to raise her. “If Cleo is inspired by myself and her other mom, I hope it is because she sees that we work hard and do what we love, and when it’s time to relax, we relax. When we are together, we are fully present, enjoying every moment.”
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