Top Female Chefs Speak at ‘A Fine Line’ Bay Theatre Premiere


A predominantly female crowd gathered at a red carpet reception hosted by The Trotter Project at the Bay Theatre by Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas on Tuesday, October 1, followed by the Los Angeles premiere of “A Fine Line.”

“The one thing I took away was to pursue your passion, pursue your goals and stay yourself,” said Haldis Toppel, who attended the event with Catherine Ruddy, both former presidents of Pacific Palisades Woman’s Club.

“A Fine Line,” the directorial debut of documentary filmmaker Joanna James, follows the story of Valerie James, owner of Val’s Restaurant in Holden, Massachusetts. In the course of her career, Val endured all-too-familiar challenges of financial discrimination, a lack of mentorship and a nonexistent work life balance.

The movie features interviews by world-renowned chefs, including Lidia Bastianich, April Bloomfield, Cat Cora, Dominique Crenn, Barbara Lynch and Carrie Nahabedian, to shed light on sexual harassment and other reasons that might contribute to why less than 7% of head chefs and restaurant owners are female.

Toppel shared that she appreciated that the film focused on those who did manage to succeed in a challenging world. The film covered “this is what we did, this is what happened and this is why I overcame,” Toppel reported.

Afterward, a panel, featuring Antonia Lofas, Nahabedian, Aarti Sequeira, Ellen Curtis and Hillary Henderson, moderated by Chef Sherry Yard (“Food Network,” “Cake Wars”), spoke to the audience about their experiences throughout the years.

The Trotter Project was founded to focus on the late Chef Charlie Trotter’s mission “to provide each person with the opportunity to diligently pursue their own dreams,” according to the project’s website.

They aim to open doors through education, mentorship and the pursuit of excellence in the global culinary and hospitality industries.

Proceeds from the event will directly benefit the Los Angeles chapter of Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP), which prepares under-served youth for careers in the culinary and hospitality industries.

“The program is also of great benefit to chefs in our industry who are constantly looking for skilled and motivated employees,” according to C-CAP Board Co-Chair Marcus Samuelsson.

The organization has awarded over $53 million in scholarships, as well as job and teacher training, equipment donations, and more.

Proceeds will also benefit The MAPP Impact Campaign, created by Joanna James to increase women in leadership roles in the kitchen through mentorships and apprenticeships, affordable and accessible childcare, paid parental leave advocacy, and “power to live your truth and give back.”