International Women’s Month provides an opportunity to celebrate the achievements and recognize women’s incredible contributions to society. Despite various challenges, many women have succeeded greatly in the culinary industry. Julia Child, Alice Waters, and Dominique Crenn are a few examples of women that paved the way for future generations of women chefs.
Women chefs have raised awareness of critical culinary issues, such as sustainable sourcing, food waste reduction, and healthy eating. They have focused on local and seasonal ingredients and emphasized the importance of cooking with respect for the environment.
Charlotte is home to several talented and successful women chefs who have made significant contributions to the city’s culinary scene. Below is a list of five women who have hosted Food & Beverage Social Club events and been supporters of our community over the past year!
Chef Lisa Brooks
Chef Lisa Brooks was the 2022 Charlottean of the Year. After 17 years of stress in the corporate world, Lisa followed her heart and took a leap of faith to become a private chef. She has grown her business by forming a team of 24 talented Black female chefs, the country’s largest Black-owned personal chef service. Chef Lisa combines her southern upbringing with her classic French culinary training and specializes in coastal/Cajun cuisine.
Chef Lisa delivers elite private dining experiences in Charlotte, is writing her second cookbook, and has had various TV appearances. She’s been a guest on The Tamron Hall Show, and in February 2022, she starred on the first-ever Black History Month Edition of the Food Network’s Chopped.
Food & Beverage Social Club had a fabulous Chef’s Table dinner called a Trip Around the Southern Coast at Chef Lisa’s home! People say she makes the best shrimp and grits on the east coast, and I can stand behind that. The meal she created was some of the best food I have ever tasted! Multiple F&B Members said that eating her dinner was a spiritual experience. Chef Lisa is also a Food & Beverage Social Club member, so you may see her at an upcoming event.
Chef Lisa Brooks competed in our Sip & Bite live cooking competition on April 4th!
Chef Samantha Allen
Samantha Allen is the owner/executive pastry chef of Wentworth & Fenn. Formerly the executive pastry chef at The Fig Tree Restaurant, Samantha was nominated for Best Pastry Chef in the South East Region, James Beard in 2017, and Best Pastry Chef in Charlotte via Charlotte Magazine. She decided to pursue her dream of opening her own bakery concept, so Wentworth & Fenn was born.
The bakery is tiny but mighty; six employees and Samantha run operations. She specializes in seasonal pastries, bread, and custom cakes made from scratch.
Her original storefront was a 1961 Shasta Camper. Now, Wentworth & Fenn has a brick-and-mortar location in Camp North End, and she recently announced her expansion of adding a second location in Uptown.
Samantha has been a big supporter of the Food & Beverage Social Club from the start! She donated her time as our bread and dessert chef for our FORK Cancer charity dinner, and we have hosted pastries & prosecco as well as wine & bread nights at Wentworth and Fenn! My favorite baked good of Samantha’s are her breads. The swiss and onion loaf and her focaccia are heavenly.
Chef Amanda Cranford
As a 21-year-old barista, Amanda Cranford was working at a restaurant when the chef came in not sober and unable to work. The owners asked Amanda if she could cook an egg, and she was suddenly thrown into the kitchen. She made it through the shift without complaints, getting orders out quicker than the chef! Over a decade later, Amanda has continued to jump on any opportunity thrown her way, working at several Charlotte restaurants and learning from other leading chefs in town.
After working for seven and a half years at Reid’s Fine Foods, she opened Paper Plane Deli & Market in the Belmont neighborhood. Amanda’s tagline for the deli is Simple. Convenient. Kind., a gesture to making people happy by throwing them the perfect paper plane. She serves a variety of breakfast foods, sandwiches, soups, and grab-and-go items. At night she offers a small bar menu with craft beer and cocktails.
Amanda Cranford also owns Dish in Plaza Midwood, a neighborhood staple for Southern comfort food. She does consulting work around the city and has developed food programs for The Royal Tot, Devil’s Logic Brewery, and Catawba Brewing Company.
When asking Food & Beverage Social Club members what their favorite event was over the past year, many answered the “Dinner is Brewing” event at Devil’s Logic Brewery. Chef Amanda’s creativity in this event was above and beyond a typical brewery experience. She created a fine-dining atmosphere with a multi-course meal incorporating the brewing process into each dish she cooked in front of us. Truly unforgettable!
Chef Amy Fortes
Once on the track for a medical career, Amy realized that she preferred the title “Chef” over “Dr.” as she worked as a dishwasher and sandwich maker in college. Working alongside her husband, Chef Jon Fortes, the couple established the Flipside Restaurant Group. In 2017, she was named South Carolina Chef Ambassador after years of creating her signature dishes at her south Charlotte restaurant, the Flipside Café. With extensive training and hard work, Amy rose to a top chef and restaurant owner in just five years. The power couple expanded and opened Salmeri’s Italian Kitchen, FM Eatery, and Flip Out Burger (coming soon) in Fort Mill.
Chef Amy recognizes the importance of local farm-to-plate cuisine and is passionate about supporting producers in the Carolinas. We are thankful for Chef Amy’s support of FORK Cancer! She donated her time and created our excellent appetizer course for the 200-person charity dinner using locally sourced ingredients.
Mixologist Amanda Britton
Amanda Britton is an award-winning mixologist who has profoundly impacted the Charlotte culinary and cocktail scene. Her growing passion for craft beer led her to work as a sales rep for Artisan Beverage Group. Then, she created signature cocktails while manager/lead bartender at 204 North in Uptown. She has provided cocktail development, creative beverage catering, and mixology classes throughout the Queen City.
Amanda helped open various top Charlotte restaurants, such as Bardo and Vana. Now she leads the cocktail program at Lincoln St. Kitchen and Cocktail and manages the Green Room, a hidden gem known for innovative drinks and seasonal small plates. She was named NCRLA Mixologist of the year and loves using lesser-known spirits with familiar flavors to help push skeptical drinkers outside their comfort zone.
One of the Food & Beverage Social Club’s first events was a holiday mixology class led by Amanda Britton. It was such a great event that we are hosting another cocktail-making class this spring with Amanda Britton in the Green Room! Mark your calendars for May 11th.
Other Amazing Women Chef’s in CLT:
Alyssa Gorelick: Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen
Ashley Boyd: 300 East
Julia Simon: Plant Joy
Tara Diamante: Bleu Barn Bistro
Overall, women chefs have profoundly impacted the culinary industry, and their contributions will continue to shape how we eat and cook for generations to come.
F&B Social Club is a group of culinary enthusiasts who come together to create meaningful connections. F&B Social Club currently operates in Charlotte, NC and introduces members to opportunities to experience food, drinks, and the bonds that those create in a variety of new and exciting ways.