The Cherry Bombe Jubilee isn’t your average industry conference. Started in 2014 by Cherry Bombe magazine founders Kerry Diamond and Claudia Wu, the Jubilee fosters and celebrates a growing community of women in various aspects of the culinary world: chefs, entrepreneurs, farmers, and producers.
“It’s a really fun, awesome, emotional day, and it blows us away every year to be surrounded by all these incredible women, both on and off the stage,” says Kerry.
April 10 marks the third annual event, when hundreds of these professionals will come together for a day of thoughtful conversations about achieving success in the industry. We at OpenTable are thrilled to be a sponsor! We asked Kerry and Claudia all about the origin of the Jubilee, the most powerful conversations, what they’ve learned along the way — and which women they’re obsessed with now. Read on.
What’s the story behind the Jubilee? Why did you decide to extend the magazine brand to a live event?
Kerry: When the whole ‘Gods of Food’ controversy erupted in TIME magazine — when they did this really lovely special section on food trends and food personalities, and they managed not to write about a single female chef. It set off this big storm. Eater started writing about all of the different food conferences that were taking place, and they pointed out how dismal the female chef participation is in these conferences.
It wasn’t really clear to us: is it that they’re not getting invited or they’re just too busy or unable to attend? Then we read this interview with Gabrielle Hamilton where she talked about how she doesn’t get invited. We were like, if they’re not inviting Gabrielle, who are they inviting?
We’d talked about doing an event in the distant future. We thought, somebody will do a conference, and then nobody announced anything. We were like, we’ll just do it. Claudia came up with the name and we just went for it. We put it together in record time, and it kind of killed us.
And how did it go?
Kerry: It was a great first conference, very emotional. Great speakers, talking about everything from motherhood to…
Claudia: Getting your foot in the door.
Kerry: One of the panels was about how to run a really unique business and maintain your identity. It was a great day.
What was some of the feedback you got from people who participated and attended?
Kerry: The best was Danny Meyer. He came up to us a few days later and said, “I’m so sorry I wasn’t there, I heard the most amazing things, you guys are really changing people’s’ lives.” It doesn’t get any better than Danny Meyer telling you you’re changing people’s lives.
Claudia: We sold out in record time this year, and every year the tickets go faster and faster. We definitely need a new venue next year.
Since the Jubilee is for women by women, how does that make the conversations and atmosphere different from other industry conferences out there?
Kerry: Last year, because I was part of Yahoo!, I pretty much went to every food conference that existed. [Laughs.] Conversations that are particular to women just don’t take place. One of the panels from the first year was Christine Muhlke from Bon Appetit interviewing Suzanne Goin and Gabrielle Hamilton about motherhood, and Christine brought her baby onstage in a Baby Bjorn. That just doesn’t happen in other conferences.
The other thing that doesn’t happen at other conferences is, one of the very first things that Claudia and I do is talk about housekeeping matters, and we talk about the bathroom situation, because you have 400 women all lining up for the bathroom.
Since this is the third year, what have been some of your learnings from the first conferences? How have you evolved the Jubilee?
Claudia: We’ve definitely learned from our mistakes every year. Neither of us had ever done an event of this size. But it’s been really successful, and we do want to expand to different cities and do other conferences. We’re a magazine, and people love having the magazine come to life and being able to be a part of a community and talk to other people who have similar interests.
Kerry: We did a party when the magazine came out, and we were shocked by how women we just assumed knew each other did not know each other. That was our first inkling that we needed to do something; it took that controversy to help us shape what it could be specifically.
We learned a lot about doing panels. It’s not enough to get a bunch of great people together and stick them onstage; you really need great moderators. We’re fortunate this year that we have Melissa Clark from the New York Times, who’s leading the chef panel. Erin Fairbanks, who’s the General Manager of Heritage Radio and spends all day long talking to people and thinking about communication — she’s moderating the farm panel.
Ellen Bennett, the very high-energy founder of Hedley & Bennett, she’s moderating a panel called “How to Be the Boss,” filled with brand founders and CEOs. She’ll be great because she will represent a lot of people in the audience, in that maybe they’re not the CEO just yet but may aspire to be one day. Or maybe they’re just the boss of their own lives.
This year, we really want to emphasize networking because more and more in the course of doing the magazine we realize that it’s so much about your network. When you have a restaurant, it can be lonely. You’re stuck in a kitchen or stuck in that basement office, and you really don’t get the opportunity to cultivate a network, especially if you just have one small restaurant and maybe you have a kid at home. We want people to come and catch up with the people the know and love, but also be conscious of the fact that they should take advantage of this day and expand their networks.
When you were coming up with topics for this Jubilee, were there specific topics you wanted to address or shy away from? Anything that was top of mind?
Claudia: We tried to figure out the things that we wanted to talk about and things we hadn’t done in the past. We’d been wanting to do a farmers’ panel for a long time because more and more women are getting into farming.
Kerry: The young chef panel really represents a turning point for so many things. When we started Cherry Bombe the big question was, where are all the female chefs? Now, they’re right in front of you. To have these five young women leading very different, very dynamic kitchens bodes well for everybody.
A really important talk we’re going to have — Kat Kinsman, Tasting Table’s Editor at Large, has a book coming out in the fall about anxiety. She’s also launched this project about chefs and depression and the need to get help. This industry, especially kitchens, attracts a certain type of person; they’re adrenaline junkies, they work long hours, they live hard, and they’re not necessarily the most sensitive bunch. Getting help when they need it isn’t necessarily something that comes naturally to them. It’s great that you’ve got someone like Kat talking about this.
Any conversations you’re particularly excited to hear this year? Or people you’re excited to hear from?
Kerry: So many of them, to be honest. The fact that the Hemsley sisters are going to be in town and are opening the conference is really exciting.
Claudia: Snack time will be really special this year. We paired young bakers who don’t have a physical bakery with people like Four & Twenty Blackbirds and Hot Bread Kitchen. They’ll be collaborating with these brands to make something that’s not available.
Kerry: It’s really hard to pick just one person — that’s almost impossible. We truly are excited about everybody! We don’t just say that.
You mentioned tickets selling out quickly this year. Why do you think people have responded the way they have to the event and community?
Kerry: I think we just tapped into something. Claudia and I really had no idea when we started this that women in the food world were waiting for this. I don’t think they even know that they were waiting for this. I think everybody was just quietly toiling away and not realizing that there was a community waiting to be built.
Not to pit the guys against the girls — we don’t really do that, it’s become a boring conversation — but they guys have their community. And women just didn’t. And it’s been really fun seeing this much bigger, supportive community emerge.
Have you heard of any partnerships, collaborations, or even friendships that have come about through people meeting at Jubilee?
Kerry: Absolutely. A great example is the “How to Be the Boss” panel. Ellen Bennett is moderating, and Katrina Markoff, the founder of Vosges chocolate, is on the panel. She was like, “I’ve always wanted to do a collaboration with Ellen, can you put me in touch?” So we connected the two of them.
A lot of people have met through the magazine and gone on to do things together. Some of our writers have done stories and gotten cookbooks because of it. A lot of professional and personal relationships have struck up because of Cherry Bombe and Jubilee.
Who’s a woman you’re inspired by right now?
Kerry: Mimi Thorisson, who writes that blog, Manger. The woman in France who has like seven kids and the eighth one on the way, and a hundred dogs, and a cute husband, and that beautiful book and a beautiful blog. She was on our radio show — she was in town from France — and she actually took the subway all the way to Roberta’s with all her kids, pregnant, giant stroller. It’s traumatic for me to ride the subway that far to Roberta’s! Her blog is just so beautiful and inspirational, and then you meet her and she’s so down to earth. Maybe she’s my current crush.
Claudia: My current crush is Laila Gohar. She’s a caterer, but she’s got this very distinct style, very graphic. I don’t know how she got in touch with the farm, but there were five baby lambs that got rejected from their mom. So Laila adopted one of them, and she’s been posting pictures of it on her Instagram — it cuddles with her, it wears a diaper. Apparently you can actually take it out walking on the streets of New York and it’s legal. Laila is going to foster the lamb until it can take care of itself, and then it will go back to the farm. I just think it’s amazing that she would even think of doing something like that. She lives in SoHo!
Photos courtesy of Cherry Bombe