COVID-19 didn’t stop female owner Rohini Dey, of Vermilion restaurant in Chicago from taking the lead and finding ways to support her fellow restaurateurs. As the pandemic dragged on in the spring, she invited 16 female restaurateurs to join her for virtual brainstorming sessions called “Let’s Talk”. The goal was to share ideas, resources, and support to keep their businesses afloat, says Mary Nguyen Aregoni, chef-owner of Chicago’s Saigon Sisters and one of the participants.
The Let’s Talk group brought chefs and restaurateurs around the country together to create survival strategies to cope with the pandemic, after many independent restaurants have struggled to stay open. Instead of competing for business, the idea was to join forces to collectively boost everyone’s business. From this, a four-week dinner series was created that featured multiple restaurants on the same menu.
“All the meals are curated so customers don’t have to pick up individual components from different restaurants” – Mary Nguyen Aregoni, chef-owner of Saigon Sisters
“But each of the women chefs had a skill or talent to contribute to make the idea work,” said Mary Nguyen Aregoni. “Everyone came together without competing against each other and we built great camaraderie.”