This is a long intro, so here’s the TL;DR: Celebrity chef Preeti Mistry is joining our roster of phenomenal speakers at our September retreat. She is even going to do a cooking lesson. Keep reading to know why you should be losing your mind and buying one of our final tickets right about now

More than a year ago, I started a regular dinner group in my home of Bay Area female investors, founders and executives of all different ages and experience levels. One of them, Nomiku’s Lisa Fetterman, started doing her own dinners piggy-backed off mine, adding in a lot of her own network. And it was at one of her dinners that I met—and ate the food of—Preeti Mistry.

While I didn’t remember this at the time, I’d first seen Preeti on season six of Top Chef—the one in Vegas that is known as one of the most successful but also one of the bro-iest seasons of Top Chef. (Yes, the one dominated by the “‘sup dude” Voltaggio brothers.)

Preeti didn’t fare well. But she learned and persevered. Afterwards, she left her job as a chef at Google and opened her own pop-up in a liquor store followed by her own “permanent” (although it’s now closed) restaurant in Oakland, Juhu Beach Club, which pioneered cutting edge, elevated Indian street food. It was there that she got cable television redemption on Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. Along the way she got nominated for the coveted James Beard Award.

Preeti is frequently someone whose career and life don’t go according to script…nor is she capable of going according to a script the industry wants her to parrot. She is a queer woman of color and a first-generation American. In a New York Times piece about French Laundry chef Thomas Keller, she sounded the f**k off: “She views fine dining as disingenuous, built from a system steeped in oppression and hierarchy in which women, gays and other minorities — whether customers or cooks — are not treated the same. 

‘It’s essentially haute couture, and we know haute couture appropriates from minorities and urban communities,’ she said. Chefs as powerful as Mr. Keller, she said, have a responsibility to address those issues. ‘You need to go on your woke journey.’”

What happened next will shock you: A total white male chef patriarchy sh*t show ensued. VICE highlighted a particularly on the nose example: When a white, male Michelin-starred chef took to Instagram to express “disbelief” that any chef could possibly consider the food industry overrun with male privilege, (Uh……) he did so in a picture that included another white dude standing on an actual soap box.

What also happened next will shock you even more: Preeti had a ton of people privately reach out and express support for her point of view, but almost none had the guts to do so publicly.

Raise your hand if that’s been the story of your professional life.

Mistry has self-financed and bootstrapped her culinary journey and restaurants in part because she had to: The people with money are just a little bit afraid of her… “I’m a fighter,” she told Vice. “If someone pushes me, I’m going to pummel them to the ground.”

Raise your hand if that’s been the story of your professional life.

She spent several years trying to fit into that same white male fine dining establishment that she’s since taken to fighting. Here’s what she told VICE about that: “Super bro culture, chefs would come in every day and start screaming at people for no reason, expletives, expletives, expletives…”

Raise your hand if that’s been the story of your professional life.

“I’d like to see the myth of meritocracy be real in the restaurant industry,” she also said in that interview.

Raise your hand if that’s been the story of your professional life.

I could go on and on and on, but right now, if you’ve taken me literally, thousands of women reading this newsletter are sitting at their desks with hands raised and the dudes working all around them have no idea why. (Even if they read this newsletter, they’d probably still have no idea why…)

Preeti is a phenomenal talent and a truth teller who became more radical against her own industry once she became a star of it. (That’s certainly the story of my professional life…)

She refuses to even dress the part. She told SF Weekly, “I don’t believe in chef jackets for a number of philosophical and political reasons. First and foremost being that I am a small woman who looks stupid in a chef’s jacket.”

I recently bought her cookbook, Juhu Beach Club, and if you follow me on Instagram, you know that I’ve spent days cooking more and more intricate recipes as a result.

Preeti has the same exacting standards for you cooking her food as she does for men of privilege in her industry. Do better. She’ll give you her secrets: But you gotta put in the work. You need to invest in a pantry of tricky-to-find ingredients, your own roasted and hand-ground masalas, and made-from-scratch chutneys before you can even begin to make anything. I’ve had a dozen meyer lemons preserving in a large gallon jar in my kitchen so that in a few days, I can make one of her recipes that calls for them.

But it’s a Mr. Miyagi-like initiation. Once you stock your pantry and make the masalas, the world of Indian street food as filtered through Oakland soul opens up like a beautiful lotus flower. Now that I’m on the other side, I don’t see why I’d ever order Indian take out again.

Her food is its own bomb against white privilege: The flavors and spices grab you by the shoulders and shake you the way a conversation with Mistry also does.

I begged her to come speak at our September retreat, the Chairman Mom Flee, which is part professional development conference and part escape from the patriarchy, and she thankfully agreed. ICYMI: We are renting an entire, female-owned gold mining town in Northern California for three days of inspiration, networking and raw female power, sponsored by Silicon Valley Bank and Ellevest. (There are ten tickets left.)

Not only is she coming to speak, but she’s going to teach you to make your own Chai Masala you can take home to make Chai Tea or…the boozy version of Chai Tea.

Having someone like Preeti Mistry on the same stage as someone like Sallie Krawcheck shows how all encompassing this fight against the patriarchy and white male privilege has become. If you don’t know them, it may not seem like a queer, mohawked, rebel of the restaurant world who won’t even wear a chef coat would have a lot in common with a white, Southern-born woman who has run several of the largest banks on Wall Street, graced the covers of countless business magazines, and never seems to be wearing anything but a perfect body-con dress.

At the end of the retreat, you’ll see that they—and all of us—are soul sisters.

And questions for the day:

Sarah Lacy

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