Restaurants Brighton guide to

Women in hospitality

International Women’s Day

On Friday 8th 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 the industry whether they work in the hospitality industry face to face or they are a supplier to the hospitality 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.

Georgina Bowell 

Georgina Bowell’s journey into the drinks industry was shaped by her upbringing in a family-owned pub, where she gained firsthand experience among the punters.

Now, as a mother to two young daughters, she embodies the spirit of daring to dream and taking leaps into the unknown. Her venture into the world of Sussex and British scratch rum reflects her passion for innovation and quality.

With an award-winning approach at Goldstone Rum, Georgina aims to inspire others to embrace new possibilities and pursue their aspirations, showcasing the potential for success in uncharted territories.

“Goldstone Rum was a lockdown idea between the two of us, we are both massive foodies John being an ex chef and Georgina growing up in a family pub, we wanted to do something different away from the corporate world we’ve found ourselves in. So after a lot of research Goldstone Rum was born.”

Read our interview with Georgina

The staff at Oeuf cafe holding their wooden BRAVO trophy in front of the entrance which is decorated with flower garlands. The large Oeuf sign is above the door. Brighton brunch award

Amber Sterck

Meet Amber from Hove’s award winning Oeuf Cafe.

Amber has been pretty much planning to open a cafe from the age of 4 apparently and Oeuf grabbed the top spot for best cafe in the 2023 BRAVO Awards. 

“Running restaurants across London and Brighton, hospitality has always been at the forefront of my career, from chains to independents, taking the best bits from each and amalgamating it into Oeuf!”

Read our interview with Amber 


Helen Soudain

Meet Helen from the Secret Vineyard in Sussex. 

Helen’s initial career plan was to combine photojournalism with wine. After completing her BSc Viticulture & Oenology at Plumpton College, she then went on to work in wine making and wine marketing.

In 2014 she started running her family’s business, Lime Cross Nursery, with her sister Vicky. They ran the nursery as a garden centre, café, plant nursery and wellbeing centre.

In 2022 they planted The Secret Vineyard and today they still run the plant nursery, vineyard, and well-being in the wild.

Ellen Richardson

Ellen’s interview highlights her deep passion for the diverse and dynamic restaurant scene in Brighton.
Since relocating to the city in 2018, she has immersed herself in its culinary delights, driven by a fascination with its constantly evolving hospitality landscape.
As a food photographer, Ellen gains insights into the inner workings of Brighton’s eateries, developing an appreciation for the dedication and creativity that distinguish each establishment.
“Her role allows her to capture the essence of these businesses, celebrating their individuality and the vibrant tapestry they collectively contribute to Brighton’s gastronomic identity.”

Sarah Driver 

Sarah Driver’s journey to becoming the proprietor of Rathfinny Wine Estate is marked by a diverse and dynamic career path.

Initially trained as a solicitor, she practiced law in both the City and Hong Kong, gaining valuable experience in legal matters.

Transitioning to parenthood, Sarah dedicated herself to raising her four children while also contributing to her community as a lecturer in “Women Back to Business” programs at a local college.

Additionally, she shared her legal expertise as a teacher of Law through the Open University and served as a Commercial Mediator, demonstrating her commitment to education and conflict resolution.

Read our interview with Sarah Driver 

Cassie Gould

Be yourself and be strong even when you don’t feel it. You can do anything.” 

With her keen nose, and ‘can do attitude’, Cassie Gould is making a great success of running Butlers Wine Cellar. Having seen her family and her business through some very hard times, Cassie always chooses to prioritise what’s important to her over pure economic reward. And though she might lament the lack of time off, the pleasure she gets from managing a great team and a thriving business makes it all worth it. 

Read our interview with Cassie Gould.

Cassie Gould, Butlers Wine Cellar, reaches for a bottle of wine on a shop shelf

Nicky Hedley

Making her debut as a kitchen porter in a fresh-faced 14-year-old, Nicky then went on to a fast-paced career in the event industry. Luckily for us, she has now slid back into hospitality with grace and taken on the deliciously nostalgic Brighton Regency Routemaster. You’ll find her on board the beautiful vintage bus, greeting passengers and serving their sumptuous afternoon teas to the soundtrack of retro rock ‘n’ roll. Hard work, focus and drive are among the qualities that have propelled Nicky to where she is now. 

Read our interview with Nicky Hedley.

Sophie Taverner 

Chef Sophie has landed at Lost. Her career spans a decade and weaves together her love for locality, culture and community with her undeniable culinary flare. Her enthusiasm for her practice is infectious and she is fuelled by the brilliant people she’s encountered on her path. 

“Seek out those people that inspire you. Outdated attitudes still exist but there are plenty of female chefs out there doing great things.”

Read our interview with Sophie Taverner.

Tamara Roberts

Not all employers are the same – find your tribe and you will do just fine.”

Tamara Roberts has been CEO of her family’s award winning wine estate for the past 10 years. Merging legal and financial acumen with intense loyalty and passion for the business, Ridgeview has gone from strength to strength under her stewardship. With total commitment to making exquisite, sustainable English sparkling wine, Ridgeview won the IWSC International Winemaker of the year in 2018, the first time this award has ever been won by an English producer and, in the same year, Tamara Roberts won Sussex Business Person of the year. A case study of what can happen when a great product meets a great leader who is supported by a great team. 

Read our interview with Tamara Roberts.

Tamara Roberts - Ridgeview Wine Estate CEO
Luciana Cousin - Arcobaleno

Luciana Cousin

“It has been an amazing, terrifying, incredible, and magical journey so far.”

Hailing from the sunny climbs of Malta, Luciana Cousin has travelled the world looking for a place where she could make her dreams come true. Settling on Brighton, Luciana and her son opened Across Rainbows C.I.C. which works to give voice to the Queer community. Luciana sees her recent venture, a family-owned LGBTQ+ destination bar/café/restaurant called Arcobaleno, as the manifestation of her values. This is evident in the process by which she recruits and develops the team. With their delicious food, Southern European attitude, lively events and culture of inclusivity, Luciana has brought a venue replete with lovely character to Kemptown Brighton

Read our interview with Luciana Cousin.

Laura Karall 

“Never stop learning, stay curious and don’t lose your passion.”

Starfish and Coffee is one the very best places to get brunch in Brighton, and no wonder with their dynamic and vastly experienced head chef – Laura Karall – at the helm. Having trained in fine dining at notable establishments around Europe, Laura mastered all the techniques necessary for her to conceive and prepare exciting, innovative menus for the monthly super club she now runs with her friend, Mattia D’Aurea. Currently one of the most exciting events on the Brighton foodie calendar, the L&M Supper Club is the perfect outlet for Laura’s boundless passion for food and culinary creativity.  

Read our interview with Laura Karall.

Natalie Demetriou

“I aspire to have my business reflect who I am as a person…Surrounding yourself with like-minded people allows you to operate and thrive in hospitality and create a business you can be proud of. Be yourself, it is so important.”

Natalie Demetriou opened Lost in the Lanes Café Bar in 2017 after spending more than a decade in New Zealand working as a speech and language therapist. Her first hospitality venture, she was determined that LOST would reflect her personal values and be a warm and supportive environment in which to work. Now LOST is one of Brighton’s liveliest cafes, attracting loyalty from both customers and staff, and serving absolutely gorgeous food.

Read our interview with Natalie Demetriou.

Amanda Jane Powley

“Trust your gut instincts. I’ve often been told I can’t do something, and it’s made me stick to my guns even more, and do it!”

Amanda Powley grew up in a family where food and hospitality were centre stage. Uninspired at school, she started working as a pot washer when she was very young and worked her way up from the bottom. Surviving the brutality, unsociable hours and bullying meted out to some young chefs, she maintained her passion for cooking. She became a vegetarian – then rare vegetarian chef – and eventually opened Terre à Terre with business partner Phil Taylor. Amanda is now one of the most influential people in Brighton hospitality and Terre à Terre continues to be an unmitigated success. The rest, as they say, is history…

Read our interview with Amanda Jane Powley.

Amanda from Terre a Terre and the restaurant manager holding a BRAVO trophy
The owners of FoodFire campsite. Part of the Sussex Tasting menu round-up

Stella Gurney

Stella Gurney worked in a glamorous London publishing office – as a writer and editor – for more than 15 years before life took an unexpected turn. Inspired by visits to Italy’s beautiful agriturismos (farm stays), she and her husband Griff, decided to abandon the big smoke and open the UK’s first gastro-campsite in the stunning Sussex countryside. Their dream was to have a sustainable business where people could kick back and enjoy the great outdoors. Providing great food cooked over fire was part of the plan. Now Stella hosts with considerable charm and Griff whips up amazing meals on a huge firepit on site. They also organise sell-out alfresco supper clubs where top chefs showcase their open-fire prowess.

Read our interview with Stella Gurney.

Nicky Stephens

Let your motivation and determination shine every day. If you want it go out and get it!

Following a successful first career in the beauty industry, Nicky Stephens, general manager of The Little Fish Market in Hove, was reeled into the world of hospitality by the infectious passion of her partner, the acclaimed chef Duncan Ray. Now she’s in hook, line and sinker. And though she is responsible for the business of running the restaurant, she loves nothing more than being on the floor and making sure that customers have a night to remember. Her understanding that great hospitality is so much more than simply great food has helped to put Little Fish Market on the map as one of Brighton’s Best Restaurants.

Read our interview with Nicky Stephens.

Sarah Cotton

Be passionate. Be confident. Be generous. Start shopping for comfortable shoes.

A lifelong passion for food led to Sarah Cotton’s crowning as Brighton’s queen of houmous. Director of Smorl’s Houmous and Falafel Bar in Brighton’s open market, Sarah started with little more than a head full of dreams, the will to graft hard and her family behind her. Sarah transitioned from home cook to market stall holder and then opened the much-loved Smorl’s in 2014. Last year Smorls won the BRAVO for the Eat Well for Less Category with their delicious, sustainable, nutritious food.

Read our interview with Sarah Cotton.

Diana Palmer 

“Do your research and don’t be scared to ask for help”

​​Dianna is the co-owner of Kemptown Project, a local company that owns three of Brighton’s most popular eateries, Redroaster cafe (by day) Lucky Khao restaurant (by night) and seafront based Lucky Beach. They also import, roast, pack and sell organic coffee from single origin small farms. And are the only producers of 100% carbon neutral coffee. They work directly with coffee farmers, paying a real wage and developing and supporting their communities. 

Kemptown Project as a company are commitment to sustainable working practices. They have been awarded a three star sustainability rating by The Sustainable Restaurant Association. Lucky Beach came top three in the 2020 BRAVOs for most Sustainable Eats and all three of the eateries have a string of top 20 listings for best international cuisine, best bunch, cafe and best cocktail.

Read our interview with Diana Palmer.

Daisy Boyce 

Work hard, find that great company and you will fly”

Daisy is the perfect example of someone who has worked hard and climbed the ladder to a senior position in hospitality. The passionate and motivated Brightonian was raised in pubs by her landlord and lady parents. Daisy is now head of sales and reservations at Ohso Social, The Dorset and is responsible for The Trading Post and its five Sussex based cafes. She speculates that it may be that the drive needed to succeed in the hospitality industry is simply ‘in her blood’.

Read our interview with Daisy Boyce.

Gemma Ogston

Be kind, be yourself and work hard. Don’t be afraid to take a risk or step out of your comfort zone. Community is everything.

Gemma found her way to becoming a plant-based champion as founder and chef at Gem’s Wholesome Kitchen after a whirlwind career in travel, hospitality and welfare. She is a devoted mother of two children – who inspire her everyday to work hard, but maintain a healthy work and life balance. 

Read our interview with Gemma Ogston.

Sarah for WIH

Sarah Davies 

“Engage and bring your team on the journey with you. Encourage other contributions

Sarah, dedicated, motivated landlady at The Cleveland Arms and mother of three, is a fantastic example of how it is possible to win in hospitality and raise a family. She doesn’t say it’s easy though!

Read our interview with Sarah Davies.

Ivana Roy

You do not need to justify yourself. Be yourself. You have a voice, so be sure to use it”

Ivana is the co-owner and operation manager at Petit Pois restaurant. Her commitment for providing impeccable service and delivering guest culinary satisfaction is second to none. She loves the people of Brighton and thrives on trials and challenges that the busy hospitality brings.

Read our interview with Ivana Roy.

Faye Thompson

“Show kindness, especially towards your team”

Faye is the co-owner at Wild Flor. She 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.

Read our interview with Faye Thompson 

Olivia Hawkins

“Work hard without an ego, and let the product speak for itself” 

Olivia is pastry chef. She has honed her skills in some outstanding Brighton venues and clearly enjoys the creativity and camaraderie of her work.

Read our interview with Olivia Hawkins

Penny O Reilly

“Learn something new every day”

Penny is the Director, Space and Thyme. She is an incredible multitasker, 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

Read our interview with Penny O Reilly

Penny O Reilly Space and Thyme
Aoife Sweeney at La Choza

Aoife Sweeney

“Immerse yourself”

Aoife is the co-owner of La Choza, an authentic Mexican restaurant is positioned as one of the leading independent restaurants in Brighton.

Read our interview with Aoife Sweeney

Penny Streeter OBE

“Anything is possible” 

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.

Read our interview with Penny Streeter OBE