It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Alison Barshak, who was the chef at Neil Stein’s Striped Bass when Esquire declared it the best new restaurant in the entire country in 1994. She later went on to have some restaurants of her own, but Barshak pretty much vanished from the local restaurant scene a few years ago. And then on Wednesday morning, voila, Barshak reappeared.
Writer Belinda Luscombe interviewed Barshak and famed chef Alice Waters for an article on Time.com about women in the restaurant industry, the discussion sparked by “The Gods of Food”, a recent TIME magazine feature (in the issue with the Chris Christie-elephant cover) showcasing “the people who most influence what we eat-and how we think about it.”
Many have noted that the list of 13 “gods” included zero female chefs, which is strange since, statistically, more than 20 percent of the head chefs in the United States are women, and TIME heard from plenty of women in the industry, including Barshak.
“When Barshak went to claim her Best New Restaurant award, she brought the owner of the restaurant,” writes Luscombe. “Everyone assumed he was the honoree and she was his date.”
Barshak, who lives in Atlanta and is no longer a chef, explains to TIME why she got out of the biz:
A lot of things contributed to her decision to leave the business, not least of which was that she was a caregiver to an ailing parent. “My father had cancer,” she says. “I had two restaurants and I was his advocate. I would wait six hours in the emergency room and he was always happy. Then I’d have a customer say they had to wait 15 minutes for a reservation. My perspective changed: I wanted to be with family at night. Different things are important to me now.”
Barshak tells me that while she’s given up her chef’s whites, she’s still working in the industry. “I create unique seafood items for retail and restaurants,” says Barshak. “I also have a patent pending on a lobster tail product which I am bringing to market.”