Three honoured at Women’s Day lunch
Becoming an advanced level wine sommelier isn’t easy.
To get her designation from the Court of Master Sommeliers in 2018, Marcus’ Bermuda sommelier Alexandra Taflan had to prove industry experience and take a three-day examination.
“It is hard,” the 33-year-old said. “There is a lot of self-studying.”
Still, even with this level of training she has had to fight hard for respect in the very male-dominated hospitality industry.
Some male colleagues don’t want to take orders from a woman, and when she turns up at the table, some guests look surprised.
“They are looking around me for the man,” Ms Taflan said. “The fact that I have long hair and wear high heels doesn’t change my capacities and my resume.”
On Sunday she was honoured at a special Women’s Day luncheon at the hotel along with two other women, Marcus’ Bermuda chef Renee Daniels and Bermuda College senior lecturer Teneika Eve.
Ms Eve prepared a special menu for the luncheon.
As a female working in a male-dominated industry for 20 years, she feels she can’t afford to be passive, and that has led some of those working under her to complain that she is “aggressive”.
“If I was a man they wouldn’t be saying that,” she said. “They would say yes, sir, or yes, chef.”
She came up in the kitchen during the era of “yellers and screamers”. As a student at Johnson&Wales University she once heard an irate professor tell a student to jump off the bridge out back.
“You could never do that today,” she said. “There would be major law suits.”
But she said back then she didn’t take the verbal abuse personally, but just adapted to it and tried to be better.
“I am now coming into contact with and managing millennials,” she said. “Their work ethic is different. I can see how someone could call me aggressive, but in my mind I think you need to raise your level.
“I have proven who I am. I have a reputation. Don’t take it personally, just get the job done and do it well. I can be a pusher, but in the kitchen it requires that at times.”
She is currently working on a PhD in educational psychology and hopes to have her doctorate by next year.
“In my dissertation I make mention of how in the last 20 years chefs have become the new rock stars,” she said. “The reality is there is a lot of hard work, stress and long 15 hour days. This is not a glamorous life.”
Ms Daniels went into cooking in 2017 after being made redundant. She became one of Ms Eve’s culinary arts students at the Bermuda College, then last year won a cooking competition hosted by celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson. The prize was a work contract at Marcus’ Bermuda.
“Even though I came into this industry later, I always felt that I was a cook,” she said. “It has been a great journey.”
She thanks Ms Eve for her support over the last three years. “She said Renee you got this,” Ms Daniels said. “I want to let people know that when one door closes another will open. It doesn’t matter how old you are, as long as you have the desire to keep going. Of course I have experienced ageism. In this industry you can’t be soft. You have to let it go.”
At 51, she often finds herself to be the oldest person in the kitchen.
“I am working with people who are young enough to be my children,” she said. “It is a very male-dominated industry.”
Ms Eve’s advice to other women coming up through the industry was: “never let anyone put you in a box”.
Before the luncheon she said she wanted to talk about the positiveness of women and what they are bringing to the table.
“I want to talk about how we are diversified, intelligent, how we are the movers and shakers of industry that surpasses hospitality,” she said. “We are fantastic. Not to be braggadocios but that is who we are. We’ve come a long way from being just the house wife, pulling out the TV dinners and popping out the babies. I love the progression that the female has undergone. It should be celebrated.”
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