Dream-Job Tips From Top Chefs

Get inspired (and empowered) with career advice from some of the most powerful women in food

Recipe for an inspiring conversation: Bring some of the biggest names in the restaurant world together onstage; add a microphone and a spirited, food-loving audience; stir the pot.

On Wednesday night, July 29, the Ace Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles was packed to capacity with a hungry audience (a show of hands confirmed that most had made a beeline straight from work) ready to hear the collected wisdom of some of the most revered, hardworking women in the food world at Women Without Reservations, a special event presented by Fidelity Investments.

Tasting Table's editor in chief Kat Kinsman hosted a spirited panel discussion with Border Grill and Mud Hen Tavern chef/owner Susan Feniger; Lucques, a.o.c., The Hungry Cat (and others) chef/owner Suzanne Goin; and Fundamental LA general manager and beverage director Alicia Kemper on topics ranging from creative inspiration and business frustrations to mentorship and gender issues in the restaurant industry. The takeaway: It's a deeply demanding business that can come at a personal cost and a roller-coaster ride of risk and reward—but looking back, none of them would have chosen a different path.

The night started with Diane Rankin, vice president and senior branch manager at Fidelity Investments, literally kicking off her shoes. "How many of you came straight from work? All of us! Ladies, let's ditch the heels. Because tonight is all about having a blast and getting inspired."

Kat Kinsman, Tasting Table editor in chief, was impressed with the audience of "smart, driven, incredible women who care so deeply about food."

Speaking of driven, there was a lot of conversation about following your dreams. "I feel like great cooks either come from a family of really good food or horrible food. Food was the thing I couldn't get away from. I wondered, Do I do the thing I'm 'supposed' to do? Or do I do the thing I really want to do, but is kind of crazy?" Suzanne Goin, chef/owner of The Hungry Cat said.

Alicia Kemper, Fundamental LA general manager and beverage director, said her favorite part of her job is the return guests—she loves that she gets the opportunity to share her passion with people every day and build relationships through a mutual love of wine. Border Grill and Mud Hen Tavern chef/owner Susan Feniger agreed: "I've built incredible relationships with my team and my customers. It feels like a big family, and that's probably the most rewarding thing for me in the restaurant business."

Guests indulged in yellow tomato gazpacho and hamachi crudo inspired by the participating chefs, wines selected by Kemper and a signature cocktail titled "Dangerous Dame"—a perfect pairing for food lovers of all stripes.

The women's biggest piece of advice? Expect the unexpected, and don't give up. "Let things roll off, and move on," Feniger said. "Even on a great night when the place is packed, the drains are bound to overflow, someone cuts their hand and has to go to the emergency room—it's endless! It's the nature of it." Oh, and make lists. Lots of lists: "When I write things down, it helps me sleep at night," Goin said.

Gain confidence in your ability to maintain your own finances with other motivating events presented by Fidelity Investments. If you're in the Pasadena area, check out the Wine Tasting / Thrive Seminar hosted at Fidelity's Pasadena Investor Center on August 19. You'll get pro personal finance tips from sommelier Alicia Kemper (back for an encore performance!) while tasting terrific wine. Register now or explore other Fidelity events around the country.

Because of these pioneering and fearless women, the future is brighter in the culinary field. Fidelity understands that planning for your future starts now, and they are here to help make sure that yours will shine.