Celebrating International Women’s Day with Sabrina Gidda
No longer dominated by men of a certain age, hospitality has seen a rise in the number of female chefs over the last few years as more women seek careers in kitchens. One such woman who is claiming her place in the spotlight is Sabrina Gidda. Currently heading up the catering team at private member’s club AllBright, Sabrina is testament to how things are changing. We sat down to talk about what makes a great working environment, why speaking out matters and #BalanceForBetter - the theme of this year’s International
So brainwashed are we when it comes to chefs that we often imagine the majority of them to not only be men, but men with anger issues. Sabrina Gidda is neither of these things. Executive chef of private member’s club AllBright, Sabrina is someone who pairs professionalism with friendliness. Having previously headed up the kitchen at Italian restaurant Bernardi’s in central London, Sabrina started her gastronomic career in a small cafe while studying Fashion PR & Marketing at university. ‘I worked as a waitress to help subsidise my prolific shoe-buying habit and stepped into the kitchen to help out.’ It was, she says, ‘a lightbulb moment. It was really like I had found the thing I was always supposed to do.’
This was followed by a brief stint at the Dorchester, a place where she learnt the art of thinking on her feet - a skill she quickly had to hone after being asked to whip up a dish with the ingredients available. ‘It was a time to really show what I could do and I really loved having the opportunity to create something. I pan roasted a sea bass fillet, and served it with braised fennel, gnocchi and a little fennel and orange remoulade. I remember the chef being pretty impressed – it’s a dish that I have always cooked in one way or another on all of my menus.’
It was in the kitchens of gastropubs where she really gained her experience though. ‘It was an amazing time where I pushed myself to learn as much as I could.’ She also spent time at the Sanctuary Spa Covent Garden and the law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer before heading up the kitchen at Bernardi’s. ‘It really has been the most incredible journey,’ muses Sabrina.
Now at AllBright - set up by women for women - Sabrina is overseeing everything from what goes on the menu to recruiting staff for a soon-to-be-opened new location in London’s Mayfair. One thing that is key for Sabrina in the midst of all of this is balance, particularly in terms of the hires that she makes. ‘Balance is great in the kitchens but as ever I am committed to creating great work environments for female chefs.’
This concept of balance is one that is particularly relevant at the moment, not only in terms of getting that elusive ‘work life balance’ but also when it comes to gender. It is the latter that is the focus of this year’s International Women’s Day, with the campaign theme being #BalanceForBetter. For Sabrina, this has come at a time when her industry is experiencing a lot of change. ‘There are many incredible chefs and people in hospitality who are championing our industry and also creating opportunities for women. I do firmly believe that times are changing, because people are actively choosing to engage in conversation. Now, more than ever, we should be showing our respect and support for the hospitality industry – and all those working within it. We need to look at how we don’t lose skills in our industry if women choose to start families – so creating opportunities to discuss flexible working is very Important.’ This is something that Sabrina is really pushing in her role at AllBright. ‘When I was looking to join AllBright it was to create an incredible food offer that championed the best suppliers and women in food and to build a happy, passionate working environment for chefs.’
There has, she reflects, been a difference since she first started out. ‘I think there has been a steady increase in coverage surround female chefs, and perhaps also in having conversations surrounding balance in teams. I think this is part of a much wider discussion that features in many different industries. Women should be proud to celebrate their achievements and not be afraid about being vocal.’
While stories of bullying in kitchens may be rife, Sabrina has been lucky to avoid any of this. Instead, her experience has been mainly positive. ‘I really am very pleased to say that I have always had a great collection of people around me to support my journey through kitchens, which is why I feel it is so important to do the same for those in my teams.’
As well as creating positive environments for her team, the next thing for Sabrina is the opening of AllBright’s second location, which is slated for this spring. ‘AllBright has an incredibly dynamic working environment and there are some very exciting plans for our next clubs; not just Mayfair but LA and beyond! I just love how incredible the members are. It is really inspiring to be around so many superwomen.’
Photography by Alina Negoita.