International Women’s Day
On the 8th of March women from all walks of life come together to celebrate International Women’s Day. A day to reflect and rejoice in the progression of their human rights. But also to celebrate the achievements of all the Mothers, Sisters and Daughters in our community.
The women behind our thriving hospitality sector are making waves in what was a male-heavy industry. In celebration of International Women’s Day, we have interviewed some of Brighton’s most ambitious and inspirational women. They recount the drives, highs and the challenges of their careers and offer words of encouragement to women that wish to embark on careers in the industry.
So, without further ado let’s hear it for the Culinary Queens and Honourable Hostesses of Brighton’s booming hospitality sector.
“Be in a position to influence! Wanting to change things and being able to change things are two very different things. It’s vital to get things done, and ultimately make progress.” Andi Hirons – People Director, Grand Hotel Brighton
Andi places people at the heart of everything she does and this has seen her career flourish since she first stayed in a hotel in Scotland as a young teenager.
Now Andi and her team are consistently surpassing expectations having won a number of recent national awards.
“No two days are ever the same and that even on a dull day there is the opportunity to learn something new” Penny O Reilly, Director, Space and Thyme
Penny is an incredible multi-tasker who has worked in hospitality and travel across Europe and has now set up a formidable partnership with her husband Chris. Penny employs 60 staff, sees every day as being different and runs her business across a number of well known Brighton venues. Nothing is impossible for Penny as long as challenges are broken down into smaller chunks.
“I was taught by my mother, out of necessity. When my father passed away. We had no money but we did have a passion for cooking! The tiffins provided us with an income along with sewing embroidery on saris” Manju, Head Chef and owner, Manju’s.
Manju has been cooking in a kitchen every day since she was 12, she is now 80. She owns Manju’s, an authentic North Indian restaurant on Trafalgar Street and works as many hours per week as years she has lived. The fierce devotion to her work is driven by love and held together by the support of her loving family, who work by her side in the restaurant.
“Hectic and stressful as always, there are never enough hours in the day or days in the week, but so much fun and I wouldn’t change it for the world!” Kate Alleston, Co-owner at Market Restaurant.
Kate Alleston the owner of Market Restaurant & Bar on Western Road in Hove and is a prominent member of the hospitality sector here in Brighton.
Kate has seen her business evolve over the years to adapt to current trends in what can be described as a competitive market place.
“Don’t stop growing and planning when you have children, just let them be part of your life.” Linda Whitfield, Owner, Semolina Bistro
Linda and her partner Orson have quickly positioned Semolina as a leading restaurant among a plethora of great Brighton restaurants.
Linda sets the tone when it comes to the whole experience at Semolina and her knowledge, enthusiasm and nature position her as one of the best in the city in our opinion.
“Anything is possible, learn from failures and take a moment to enjoy your successes.” Rebecca Monk, Owner at Kooks
Rebecca has created a truly unique concept with Kooks in Brighton’s trendy North Laine. Combining pop rock memorabilia and tunes with classic brunches and incredible comfort dishes.
“My first mentor was my friend Claudia who was my manager at Hilton when I was 19, I didn’t have a lot of confidence and she taught me to believe in myself and my ability.” Jane Mostowfi, Owner at Kindling
At the age of 18, Jane worked in the US and only came back to the UK to study. luckily for Brighton, she remained here and she is now the Co-owner of Kindling restaurant Brighton and previously owed the local favourite Food for Friends which has been creating landmark vegetarian food since 1981.
“Don’t define your success by what others have achieved. Create your own path and be proud of the outcome.”Melanie Mann, Owner at Kujira.
Melanie Mann, owner of the award winning modern Japanese restaurant Kujira in Brighton. Melanie talks about running her own business, her inspirations and influencers.
“Imposter syndrome is real and can be a serious deterrent when pushing forward. Recognising it is the first step, talk to colleagues and friends – try confidence on for size and it will be self-perpetuating.” Mae & Benny Sullivan, sisters, co-owners of Chard Restaurant with Ciarán Thomas.
Mae and Benny are part of the trio who bring us Chard Restaurant proving to us all that the path to our dreams is not always clearly planned out.
“it can be a tough industry, long hours and tight margins. Keep everything in
balance to keep work and life in harmony.” Justine O’Connell, Co-owner, Olive Social
Justine has a stand out sales and marketing CV which has seen her work for the leading restaurant groups across the UK and in Brighton.
Recently Justine has started her own business, helping smaller independent brands establish themselves.
“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time but you can’t please all of the people all of the time. Just believe in yourself and don’t let any gender issues swerve your ambition!” Helen Hutton, Owner at Tropical Sushi
Helen is co-owner of Tropical Sushi in Hove. Her creativity, energy, and love of people has proven to be a great recipe for success.
“We travel every year to Mexico to immerse ourselves in the incredible culture and stay in tune with new recipes” Aoife Sweeney, Co-owner, La Choza
Aoife has positioned the award winning La Choza as one of the leading independent restaurants in Brighton and Hove and has venues in Brighton’s North Laine and Western Road.
“There are a lot of senior positions in many career choices that are dominated by men, but that doesn’t mean things aren’t changing or women don’t have the same skill set or ambition. Keep pushing forward and don’t let anyone undermine you.“Charlotte Kjaer, Head Chef at the Canna Kitchen
Charlotte has been cooking professionally since 2012, she is driven by her passion for holistic cooking. In 2019 she headed up the Kitchen of the Canna Kitchen, which was the first restaurant in the UK to use CBD as a key element in its recipes. She is now expecting her first baby and is adjusting the work/life balance, in order to be a mother and continue working by pursuing self-employment.
“Always try to have a positive mental attitude as much as this may offend some chefs. But a wise chef once told me- “it’s just a bit of dinner” a silly philosophy that has always stuck with me over time. When your a little bit of a worry bug like myself, It really helps me to not take life to seriously when service can feel overwhelming.“ Asha Okang Phelps, Front of House at The Little Fish Market
“Whatever level you are at whether it be front of house or a manager don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Also, continue to develop your existing skills and explore opportunities to learn new skills. It’s important to keep challenging yourself.” Rachel Bateman, Co-owner, Olive Social
Rachel Bateman, is co-founder of boutique marketing business Olive Social. Rachel talks about her super impressive CV, which includes The Grand Hotel, Brighton.
“Work hard without an ego, and let the product speak for itself.” –
Olivia Hawkins, Pastry Chef at .etch
Olivia is pastry chef a the fantastic .etch. She has honed her skills in some outstanding Brighton venues and clearly enjoys the creativity and camaraderie of her work.
“You can do it! It just takes hard work and intelligent application. Learn your lessons and move on. I left school at 16, was in a homeless refuge – but from that start, I have built a successful hospitality business in the UK and South Africa. I hope that is an inspiration to other women.” Penny Streeter OBE, owner of the Benguela Cove wine and hospitality group, that includes Mannings Heath Golf and Wine Estate and Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens, Horsham, Sussex.
Penny is a genuine example of how with enough work and dedication anything is achievable.
“Show kindness, especially towards your team. Your day will always start and end with them. Take time to listen and build relationships. If you have a happy team you’ll get the best from them. You’ll then find that taking care of your customers will be a walk in the park.” Faye Thompson, Co-owner at Wild Flor.
Faye was inspired by her grandmother’s culinary skills and decided to follow in her footsteps. She worked her way up from kitchen porter, to front of house and is now the co-owner of one of Hove’s most exquisite restaurants, Wild Flor.