Co-Owner, Bluestem Brasserie
“Almost across the board, most female leaders in this industry are badass, tough-as-nails with passionate hearts of gold. The duality between these two characteristics is what sets women apart with their pioneer-minds.”
BC: Tell us a little about your journey to your current position?
SJ: Hospitality is simply in my blood, as my fate was sealed well before I was born. My mother’s side of the family owned and operated restaurants for 45 years after coming to San Francisco from Italy. While my mom didn’t directly go into the industry herself and often advocated for me to stay away from the hospitality business, I did dip my toe in the restaurant industry during high school and through most of college. After college, I began my career in the technology and design industry, working in a variety of service-focused positions. About 12 years ago, my husband and I decided to become not only partners in life but in business as well. We started a hospitality consulting group and ultimately opened our own restaurant where we brought my background in marketing, event management and design together with his depth of restaurant operations.
BC: How do you think your restaurant delivers a different experience to guests, and how are you apart of that vision?
SJ: I believe because our restaurant is owned and operated by a husband and wife team, we strike a balance between male and female energy among our staff and management teams. We inherently value both, and encourage our team to have a voice and express our individual approaches to the guest experience.
BC: What is the first moment in your career when you felt truly proud?
SJ: I’m most proud of seeing our staff-members develop and thrive. Especially when their experience with us helps to foster them to find their true passion. We’ve had members of our team go on to open their own business, pursue their passion (even if those pursuits lead them outside of the hospitality industry), and grow as a person.
BC: In celebration of Bob Cut’s Women in Food feature, what insight can you offer to your industry, or what is something you’d like to see more of in the years to come?
SJ: Mahatma Gandhi once said “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." This concept sits well in my body and often informs my approach to service. This act of giving to your community on a daily basis is both enriching and humbling. Every day we have an opportunity to be in the service of others, and would like to see people continue to value service. I also believe it’s important in a people-centric industry that it’s paramount to remain your authentic self. You may find some restaurants environments aren’t a fit for you. And, that’s okay. This is a very personal business, and finding the right home is just as important as the contributions you give to this industry.
BC: Where do you go for inspiration? Similarly, who do you go to for inspiration?
SJ: : Women inspire me every day. I especially admire pioneer chefs, such as Joyce Goldstein, Alice Waters (Chez Panisse) or Nancy Oaks (Boulevard, Prospect), along with more recent Chefs such as Dominique Crenn and Melissa Perello (Octavia). Their approach has taught me how to navigate and maintain the gift women bring to the table while still to this day being predominantly surrounded by men.
Isabella Welch is a graduate of UCLA with a degree in history. Her writing has been featured in history journals, travel blogs, arts & culture magazines, and more. Director of Editorial & Creative Development at Bob Cut Mag, lover of stories and tinto de verano, she’s usually found wandering the Headlands.