Meet Belinda: In her own words…
“A few months ago, I was asked to speak about my decades-long career path (to date) and what I have learned along the way on stage for The Welcome Conference.
If the James Beard Awards are the restaurant world’s equivalent to the Oscars, then The Welcome Conference is like giving a high stakes TED talk in front of all of your restaurant business idols and baring your soul to them, too.
As I set to writing the speech (with a little help from my friends, of course, as writing is a very arduous and slow process for me), I realized that mentorship and the lack of available women mentors in my field have been a prominent theme throughout my career. I have worked for mighty and successful leading men, but never a woman.
The world of high stakes Michelin-starred restaurants is intense – crazy long hours, working in close quarters always in the fire and often in a state of panic, dealing with sometimes abusive guests and co-workers and employers and win (those stars) or die trying mentalities.
You might have read about some of the results of this, especially as #metoo hit our world early on. In this environment, in my early career, I burned through everything: relationships, alcohol, money, and any life outside of work in pursuit of being the best and making my wine program the best. And winning those awards – I got me some James Beard Awards a few years ago and there was a cost. Maybe if I had women role models to show me a better way then, I would have found self-awareness, balance, and mental wellness sooner. And still won the awards.
As we move up the ladder, find success, and grow professionally, I know that it is my and all of our responsibilities to lead the way. Find our replacements. We must do everything that we can for the young women who come up behind us. And I hope that they will exceed all of our achievements. It is our job to mentor, support, amplify, and even give the gift of glamour at every opportunity to make that happen.
I have also learned that there is a bizarro-world to mentorship, inhabited by what I like to call secret squirrels, those people who would rather horde knowledge out of fear that sharing will create competition. Secret squirrels would instead withhold their knowledge than use their powers for good. I’ve encountered my fair share of secret squirrels, and I don’t understand the mentality—they’re the human embodiment of the Technical Challenge in the Great British Bake-off. You know the one. Paul Hollywood or Pru decides to subject the bakers to making an obscure treat or confection but provides minimal guidance about the process. Secret squirrels would rather see you stumble than grow as they look for ways to block, thwart or otherwise impede from your potential.
I am not a secret squirrel. Do not be a secret squirrel. Be a force for good. Do as much good as you can.”
Participants in this project will be supporting the efforts of Dress for Success Worldwide – Central. We are all stronger together and it is my sincere hope that we will be inspired by each other’s stories. Now is the time to celebrate as well as encourage one another. Tell your story!***