Why aren’t there more women, more people of color, and more queer and gender-non-conforming chefs starring in prestige food TV shows? Why are food festivals and conferences, magazine pages, and awards ceremonies dominated by white men? Could part of the problem of representation in food be linked to laziness? If the gatekeepers knew who was out there and had their names and headshots and email addresses and social handles, would it change things?
Author Julia Turshen wants to find out.
Debuting today, Equity at the Table (EATT) is a slick, searchable database of activists, bakers, lawyers, authors, chefs, and other food industry professionals composed of women/gender-non-conforming individuals, most of whom are people of color and in the LGBT community. Built as a resource both for storytellers and conference organizers who all too often lean on the known and already celebrated voices and for people within marginalized communities who want to lift each other up and find allies, EATT aims to act as a directory and community for all.
It’s the brainchild and special project of Turshen, who began working on the database earlier this year. Inspired by similar databases like Women who Draw and Creatives of Color and by the reaction to the launch of her recent cookbook, Feed the Resistance (which featured a diverse group of collaborators), she felt this was a tool the restaurant industry needed. “I think that there’s been such an increase in conversation about the importance of making food media — and not just who writes it but who’s written about — more inclusive. I felt like we could use some more tools to make it happen,” says Turshen. She was surprised that no one had built a database like this already.
Turshen started by forming an advisory board of activists, writers, and food makers and hiring web designer Kate Caprari to build the project. Then she reached out to around 100 initial members to get the process started. Now that the site is live, new members are encouraged to submit their photos and information for inclusion. At the moment, only POC and/or queer women/gender non-conforming individuals can submit to the “creatives” aka “food professionals” section of the site (for writers, chefs, stylists, etc.). The “resources” (lawyers, publicists, accountants) section is open to all women.
The site cost Turshen thousands of dollars to build and maintain, and she is accepting any support for the project via a Patreon page. Her hope is going forward she could use it as a platform to list job openings, surface opportunities, and build community. “We’ll see where it goes. We’ve heard from enough straight white men and I want there to be a place that listed up a lot of other voices,” says Turshen.