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Posted By - Kate Spencer On March 31, 2016

The New York Project

It’s been a busy first quarter and with the amazing amount of talent in New York, we can’t quite quit the Big Apple. So we’re doubling down and continuing to add talented, inspiring, innovative and move-the-needle women to THE LIST:

WHY WE LOVE DIANNA DAOHEUNG

Dianna Daoheung is a first generation Lao-Thai American who grew up cooking traditional Thai dishes but didn’t find her passion for food until she went to culinary school. She now co-owns one of the most famous bagel shops in New York City, Black Seed Bagels, where she balances her role as chef and business manager. Her love and craving for unexpected challenges is the reason why she’s made #thelist. 

Dianna graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in social behaviors and business management. Like many graduates, Dianna struggled with finding her niche within the “real world”. She moved to New York City to begin her career in advertising but after four years of following the rigid assembly line, she was “like, okay, either I stick with this or I leave now and figure out what I really want to do.” Lucky for us bagel lovers, Dianna started studying at the French Culinary Institute in Pastry Arts because she “knew the least about it” and the challenge excited her.

New York City is famous for bagels but Dianna’s drive and unwillingness to conform to traditional standards inspired her to create a gourmet Montreal and New York hybrid bagel. “The only thing you can control is the quality of your food. Especially with something nostalgic like the bagel, everybody has an opinion about it. That was the hard part.” She switched it up producing a bagel that is smaller in size, cooked in honey water producing a sweeter taste and then ending in a wood oven. 

Favorite kind of bagel:

“My favorite kind is the plain bagel. Yes, it sounds boring at first, but this is the only bagel where you get to taste the depth of the dough’s flavor. When you cover up the dough with seeds, you get mainly the taste of the seeds. I literally eat a plain bagel every day to make sure the dough is spot on.”

 

WHY WE LOVE LAUREN DESTENO

Lauren DeSteno is one of the most sought after female chefs in New York City. She is the Chef de Cuisine at Altamarea Group’s Marea under Chef Michael White. Marea has been one of the most popular restaurants in Manhattan since it opened in 2009 with high profile regulars like Tory Burch, Anna Wintour, Katie Couric and Diane Sawyer. 

DeSteno wanted the restaurant to be a place “where people could walk in and be wowed by the location and the room, but also not feel out of place, like they had to be or act a certain way. I want people to feel comfortable and happy”. Her vision goes beyond the esthetic or the menu and instead forges the two together creating an unforgettable experience for the diners and that is why we love her.

To better understand DeSteno’s passion for cooking, you have to know about her upbringing. She is the youngest in her Italian/Spanish family and spent most of her childhood in the kitchen. Her Grandparents were born and raised in Italy and their passion for food and family became deeply rooted in DeSteno’s memories. Every Christmas Eve her grandparents spent all night cooking for their family, “their food touching us all at once became big for me. It was about making people happy”. Her family is what inspired her to attend culinary school and what motivated her throughout her career.

DeSteno has worked in many impressive kitchens and is surprised at the gender focus as she explains, “I never thought about this until people started asking me these questions, I just never thought I was different than anyone else.” She was always focused on her work and perfecting her skills as a chef that gender never seemed like an obstacle:

“There are definitely people who are great cooks and there are people who aren’t, it’s not a male or female thing. That’s one of the things that helped me—this was what I wanted to do forever, so I just kept following the steps to get there”.

It is a fact that there are more male head chefs and restaurant owners than females but DeSteno likes to think it’s because “some people don’t want to be in charge of things” and that is something not “everyone wants to do”. Although gender never played a role in her success or journey to the top, DeSteno is happy to be part of the conversation. We hope that all chefs can one day share her stance and see gender equality as the norm and let the focus be based on talent alone. 

Marea’s Must  Have’s 

Drink: Marea’s large, seafood-friendly, all-Italian beer list includes intriguing bottles you won’t find anywhere else, including the herb-infused Nuova Mattina.

Eat: Sea urchin-lardo crostini, cuttlefish crudo, lobster with burrata, fusilli with octopus and bone marrow

 

WHY WE LOVE ERIN SHAMBURA

A New Jersey native, Erin graduated from the New York Restaurant School and has worked in several of NYC's most well-regarded restaurants, starting as an intern at Wylie Dufresne’s WD-50 and sous chef at The Mercer Kitchen. Looking to further her culinary skills and learn first-hand about fine Italian cuisine, Erin made a rather unprecedented choice to work as line cook at Mario Batali’s Del Posto where she first crossed paths with future Epicurean Group Chef Owner Gabe Thompson.  It was at Del Posto, under the tutelage of Chef Mark Ladner, that she grew to understand and love Italian cuisine. Upon leaving Del Posto, Erin took the position of sous chef at another Batali eatery, Lupa, working for three years honing her skills.

 

By the summer of 2010, Erin was ready for the next chapter of her career and she joined the team at L’Artusi as Chef de Cuisine.  There in the West Village, she felt immediately at home behind the marble counters of the open kitchen alongside the group's family of neighborhood restaurants that includes dell'anima, Anfora and L'Apicio.  Erin shares Epicurean Group's passion for using thoughtfully-sourced ingredients and creating soulful food.  In January 2015, Erin was promoted to Executive Chef, earning the restaurant various accolades including the recent Zagat ranking of #17 on their 50 Best Restaurants in NYC. 

 

Cook On!

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