Dyan Solomon opened her first restaurant/bakery Olive & Gourmando, 21 years ago with Éric Girard, whom she met while working at Toqué! A McGill University graduate, (English Literature and Women’s Studies), Solomon says she’s always worked hard to make a name for herself. She believes that the best way to change the restaurant industry and ensure gender equality is to put women in positions of power. “My partner and I have spent our entire professional careers creating welcoming spaces within our restaurants, not only for women, but also for people with different ethnic, religious and sexual orientations. As long as you have talent, a solid work ethic and respect for others, you’re more than welcome to work with us.”
A true businesswoman — six months ago she opened Un Po di Piu, an Italian bar in Old Montreal, ideal for 5 à 7s — Solomon has worked in and observed the restaurant industry for 35 years. “For women, our status in the industry has greatly improved. Behaviours such as intimidation and abuse are no longer tolerated. I am 51 years old, and many women work in my kitchens. I can confirm that the younger generation finds inspiration in solid role models.”
Julie B. Cateysson
Having worked behind bars in New York and Montreal, Julie B. Cateysson has experienced her fair share of unpleasant customers and prejudices against women. “Thankfully, preconceived ideas about women in my field are becoming less and less common,” says Cateysson with a smile. “There are more and more excellent female mixologists out there. Women who are talented, dynamic, who organize events and hold positions of power.” Plus, women who work behind bars have a zero tolerance policy for any hostile behaviour from customers or co-workers.
Cateysson, who until recently managed the now-defunct Ludger restaurant and Magdalena wine bar, admits that her industry can be tough on women in their 30s. Many women her age struggle to balance work and family life, which can be even harder than usual when you factor in having to work until the wee hours of the morning.
Focused and determined, Julie B. Cateysson’s upcoming plans are to fine-tune her management skills, as well as teach others all about the world of spirits. “There are a lot of women sommeliers, but still too few women mixologists,” points out Cateysson.
On March 8th, Cateysson plans on celebrating the inspiring women in her life: “I want to honour the strong women in my life by supporting and thanking them.”
Blogger, entrepreneur, owner of Tastet.ca
At 28 years old, Élise Tastet is already the head of a blog that generates over 500,000 views each month. She describes herself as a feminist (“absolutely!”) and thinks that there is still too significant a discrepancy between how women and men are treated in many industries. “The web and the restaurant industry remain predominantly male-dominated domains.”
After studying communications at Concordia University and e-commerce at HEC Montréal, Tastet did an internship at an advertising agency in France, where she fell in love with all that the web could do. When she returned to Quebec, she created the Tastet website with her father (who is no longer partner). Since 2016, Tastet has been running the blog by herself, writing about the city’s top restaurants and making a living from her passion. However, the young entrepreneur admits that she faces her share of daily challenges: “In the beginning, investors just didn’t take me seriously. I was my father’s daughter. Everyone thought it was ‘cute’. Still today, people sometimes ask me, ‘where’s the man who helps you run your business?’ It can be tough to be respected in business. Thankfully, there’s solidarity and mentorship available. I’ve met incredible women through Femmessor and the Montréal Inc. grant. The #MeToo movement has also changed things.”
So how does Tastet plan on spending March 8th? “My mother and grand-mother, who are both feminists, had to put up with many struggles in their time. International Women’s Day is a time for me to remember how lucky I am to have been born in this era, and to realize that we still have a ways to go in the fight against gender inequality.”
Co-owner, Liqueur maker, Cassis Monna & filles
When Catherine Monna and her sister Anne decided to rename their father’s liqueur manufacturing company, they added & filles, well aware that it would play into their marketing strategy – and garner them some additional attention. They wanted to let everyone know that Bernard Monna’s two daughters were taking over the reigns of the family business: “Two women in charge of an argo-tourism company is still something of a novelty,” comments Catherine Monna.
Over the past decade, Cassis Monna & Filles has witnessed a bone fide expansion. Though it remains a relatively modest, seasonal business located on Ile d’Orléans, it employs 40 during the high season. The two owners bought new cropland and are actively planning expansion. To the roughly 20 existing products, the Monna sisters want to add spirits – including a blackcurrant-flavoured eau-de-vie and gin. “Spirits are still a man’s world, but we’re very excited to get our new products onto the market!”
For Catherine Monna, International Women’s Day is an opportunity for solidarity: “March 8th is an important date. As kids, my mother brought us to protests. We need to keep helping women so all trades are open and welcoming to us. And so that women know that they can learn to do anything.”
After beginning a career as a trumpeter, Michelle Bouffard made a paradigm shift to the world of wine and gourmet foods; she headed to Vancouver to work at a restaurant. Bouffard stayed in British Columbia for 20 years, studying to become a sommelier and then starting her own private cellar management company. She returned to Quebec a few short years ago. When we caught up with her for this interview, Bouffard was about to jet off to Europe for more training that might help earn her the prestigious Master of Wine title. “At the last Concours de sommellerie international, four women were in the top-5,” notes the sommelier, who is also a columnist with various media outlets. “It’s exciting to be part of a highly competitive field – as wine is – and to see all the successes that women are racking up.”