Celebrating International Women's Day with Terrain Cafe Chef Jes Bengston
In honor of Women’s History Month, we hosted an amazing event at our Westport, CT cafe on Monday, celebrating female leaders in the culinary industry. The sold out event was a joyful, inspiring evening full of lively conversation, delicious food, and incredible women. We chatted with Jes Bengston, the chef at the Westport Terrain Cafe, to hear how she came up with the idea, what she hopes guests took away from the event, and her own journey in the local culinary world.
terrain: Hi Jes! This It’s a Woman’s World event is so exciting. Can you tell us how it came about?
Jes: Last year, our local food-focused website CTbites ran an amazing monthly column called “It’s a Woman’s World.” I was honored to be featured one month and I was telling the founder, Steph Webster, how much I adored all the other honorees. I just thought it would be so amazing to get all these ladies together in one room and have a drink! At first we laughed about it but soon decided to make it a reality! We discussed it for a year and over the holidays we were both so overcome with the women’s movement in the culinary space in Connecticut, we felt like we had to do something to show it off.
terrain: Congratulations on all your hard work! While the event already happened (and sold out early!), we’d still love to hear what guests can expect at the event.
Jes: The food will be presented as a beautiful vegetable-forward grazing table so the twenty honorees can easily mingle with guests and be accessible to chat. We’re ending the celebration with an exciting awards ceremony, hosted by Marysol Castro, who is the first female announcer for the Mets and the first Latina announcer in the MLB. So cool!
terrain: What are you hoping folks take away from this event?
Jes: We are hoping every single person walks out the door ready to change the world and I’m not exaggerating. I want people to feel inspired, excited, and impassioned so they can go forward with their respective dreams and plans feeling unstoppable.
terrain: Can you talk to me about a few women who are being honored at this event?
Jes: I’m so excited to see Emily Mingrone from Tavern on State. Her spot just opened six months ago and has already won “best new restaurant” in Connecticut. She opened a small amazing space with no investors, which just doesn't happen these days. Then there’s the James Beard award-winning Dorie Greenspan, Patti Popp (the fiercest farmer you'll ever meet), and Lori Cochran from Westport Farmers' Market, just to name a few!
terrain: The restaurant world is often thought to be a male-dominated one. Does that hold true today? We’d love to hear about your experience in the kitchen.
Jes: You know, that was true, but it’s just not as much anymore. The dynamic has shifted so much the past five years, especially in this area. In my 16 years in the industry, I’ve definitely been passed up on jobs I was qualified for and certainly have been compensated differently than my male co-workers. But once I started working in Fairfield County with these amazing humans, everything changed. I’ve felt supported and encouraged and hopefully have become part of the change I’ve always wanted.
terrain: Do you have words of advice for women who are looking to enter the culinary world?
Jes: Go hard, be fearless, and go to school! You’ll have to be ready to be the first one in, the last one to leave, and to work hard. Always work with your heart and soul.
terrain: Are there any more events, people, or groups we can look forward to you partnering with in the coming months?
Jes: Yes! We are rolling out an entire summer’s worth of local partner features and collaborations with fellow chefs, farmers, cheesemongers, winemakers, and more.
Be sure to check our calendar of events for all the local happenings near you!