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College junior Alaina Chou (left) and Wharton junior Maggie Tang (right) started Gourmand in Sep. 2020.

Credit: Ava Cruz

Two Penn juniors co-hosted a conference on April 9 and 10 to give college-aged women advice about getting their start in the hospitality industry. 

The conference, called “Hindsight 20/21: What I Wish I’d Known,” was hosted by Women in Hospitality United, a group working to make the industry more equitable, and Gourmand, a podcast by College junior Alaina Chou and Wharton junior Maggie Tang that features interviews with various restaurant professionals. The nationwide event which was attended by 250 participants featured two keynote addresses, panels focused on leadership and equity in innovation, a cooking class, and a vision mapping exercise. 

Chou and Tang first connected with Women in Hospitality United in the Fall of 2020. For the two co-founders of Gourmand, the partnership provided a unique opportunity to connect two generations of women, those already working in the hospitality industry, and those seeking to enter into it. 

“The intention was to provide an ongoing space for cross-generational community and mentorship, and just really create space for those conversations, to bridge the gap that we saw between ourselves as a community we're trying to build and the current group of amazing women leaders in the space,” Chou said. 

The event included an interactive cooking class with League of Kitchens instructor Mab Abbasgholizadeh on Friday. Attendees watched and asked questions as Abbasgholizadeh prepared two dishes from her own home kitchen in New York. 

Another event on Saturday featured 1987 Wharton graduate and 1993 Wharton MBA graduate Ellen Yin, a Philadelphia-based restaurateur who founded and co-owns High Street Hospitality Group.

College sophomore Sophie Meinen, who attended the speaker event on Friday and most of the afternoon on Saturday, said she found the event empowering. Although she is not interested in entering the field of hospitality, she said that a lot of the speakers' advice was universal. 

"I think it was more about an overall conversation about the problems of inclusion and the female experience in the hospitality or food industry and how they're hoping to change that, especially through empowering younger women, like most of the college students who are attending," Meinen said.

Chou said that it was impactful and inspiring to hear from the many accomplished women. 

“We're the demographic that we were targeting with the event as attendees, and so all of the lessons that are being shared and the stories that are shared in these panels and keynotes, are so applicable to us because we are starting out on our careers and trying to figure out what our goals and our visions are,” Chou said. 

In their role as the founders of Gourmand, Chou and Tang saw the event as an opportunity to develop and strengthen the Gourmand community  — which is their shared vision for the future of their organization. After starting their podcast in September 2020, the pair has also added a community-based platform featuring essays, reviews, and recipes.

“Continuing the conversation on mentorship and continuing to work with women leaders in the industry is definitely one of the core goals of Gourmand,” Tang said.