Over the course of having this Hungry Grl brand go viral, I’ve heard a few comments that very honestly turn me off:
“Wow, you eat like a man!”
“How are you not a million pounds?”
“Do you actually eat everything you post?”
Word to the wise… well a few words.
Eating isn’t a gendered activity.
I appreciate a slice of pizza as much as I appreciate an ass-kicking in the gym.
I eat everything I post… and then some.
In today’s world, I think there’s a need to shed light on just how powerful and bad ass women are… especially in the culinary world. From those that eat it to those that are making it, food is a universal tool for innovation, creativity, and business… and women are slaying the game.
So, let me introduce you to the amazing, inspiring, and culinary genius that is Clare Lise, the Executive Chef of Pork & Beans. You may know this restaurant as one of the many concepts of the Richard DeShantz group, which seems to run the downtown culinary scene as it is expanding to other neighborhoods of Pittsburgh: Poulet Bleu in Lawrenceville and Fish Nor Fowl of East Liberty.
But, what you may not know about this specific concept is that Clare is the only female Chef of the group… and this comes with no prior battles of gender in the kitchen. Though today her role in the kitchen and in the Group is the upmost respected and inclusive, for Clare, it wasn’t always that way.
Clare started her culinary journey long before culinary school was on her radar; growing up, she learned how to cook from her Grandma and Mother, and learned the importance of food as a unifier of people every Sunday. Being a part of an Italian family, these dinners were essential and important for the family as a whole. Clare also spent time in London in high school and further developed her passion and appreciation for the culinary world while there.
Once in culinary school, Clare took an internship in North Carolina, where she was exposed to BBQ and really took an interest in how versatile and different BBQ cuisine could be, especially based on geographical location. From there, Clare kept Pittsburgh, where she grew up, as a home base, and after meeting her husband, spent time traveling from Pittsburgh to other cities such as Hawaii, Phoenix, and San Francisco. Always knowing she had a passion for cooking, as did her husband, they made their craft work no matter where they moved to.
Though Clare worked hard no matter where she found herself cooking and creating, it hasn’t and doesn’t come easy. Being a female chef in the mid 90’s started a trend of people questioning her “worthiness” of being in a restaurant’s kitchen, or why she wasn’t in her own kitchen at home. When asked how Clare dealt with such comments or attitudes or treatments, Clare said that she couldn’t let it get to her and that sometimes, a cry in the car is how she coped with the treatment. Even more, Clare knew she had to keep pushing through and working hard in order to rise above the treatment.
While Executive Chef at Bill’s Bar & Burger down the street from her current role, she heard of the Pork & Beans opening and knew she had to apply. Fast-forward a little over a year and Clare has been innovating and curating the menu ever since. Though the Group is a great way for Clare to develop and work with the other chefs (who are male) on a daily basis, there is still some hardships she faces from those that assume her role is not that of a woman; often times, customers will tell their waiters to tell the chef that he did a great job, which is something that will be corrected and at this point laughed about in the kitchen. However, as more and more women take on roles leading kitchens or even restaurants, Clare says this issue is one that isn’t as prominent or career-altering as it once was. Even so, her advice to women that do fear taking on their full potential in the kitchen or don’t know how to deal with such behavior is to just keep hustling, working hard, and asserting your power at all times to get to where you want to be.
Clare admitted to me that when she’s not in her downtown kitchen, at home, her husband is in charge of cooking for them. In their spare time, they make their own pickles and snack on Cheez-It’s or meats. But, don’t ask for her to share her pickles; they’re not for sharing. And when it comes to her favorite item on her menu, it’s the brisket.
“But don’t tell the pork that,” followed up Clare with a laugh.
If you’re dahn-tahn in the near future (or ever) be sure to visit Clare and try the brisket, per her recommendation.
This interview is the initial start of conversation with Clare. Be sure to stay tuned for the recorded interview.