Ep. 029 – Owning a Restaurant and Empowering Women for Culinary Leadership with Rohini Dey, Owner, Founder and Culinary Director of Vermilion

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We have an amazing guest today, Rohini Dey is an inspiring woman, who not only owns a very successful restaurant in New York and Chicago, but also spearheads a great scholarship program for aspiring women in the culinary field.

We are also proud to announce the Women in Culinary Leadership Scholarship and encourage you to apply. Click here for the link.

[UPDATE]: If you want more information about the scholarship, our friends at Foodgrads have an amazing article for you to read.

About Rohini Dey, Ph.d. 

A leading restaurateur, proponent of Indian cuisine with her unique Latin twist across Vermilion Chicago and NYC, an avid supporter of women, former World Bank economist and McKinsey management consultant, Rohini Dey straddles the worlds of business and philanthropy across the US and India.

Rohini was inspired to break away from her management consulting career by a desire to go entrepreneurial and a conviction that Indian cuisine in the United States was either confined to stereotypes, or timid and washed out. Rohini created and developed the Vermilion Indian-Latin concept and cuisine. She led the spectrum of entrepreneurial activities across her NYC & Chicago entities. As founder, owner and culinary director of Vermilion, Rohini oversees the operations and culinary evolution of her restaurants.

As a woman restaurateur, Rohini is a staunch supporter of women in business and mentorship and education of girls on a global level. A member of the Board of Trustees and the National Advisory Board of the James Beard Foundation, she co-founded the James Beard Foundation Vermilion Women in Culinary Leadership Program (WICL), backed by a roster of incredible restaurateur-mentors and celebrity (CFW) “Chefs for Women.”

About Vermilion

Since inception, Vermilion has been acclaimed as “Best New Restaurant” by Chicago Magazine, Travel & Leisure, Town & Country, USA Today, and Bon Appetit, among others. For its pioneering cuisine, woman-led team and Rohini’s entrepreneurial journey, she and Vermilion have been profiled in The Financial Times, Time, Oprah Magazine, Fortune, Esquire, Crain’s, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, BBC World, CBS News, and NBC, among others.

About the James Beard Foundation (JBF)

Founded in 1986, the James Beard Foundation celebrates, nurtures, and honors America’s diverse culinary heritage through programs that educate and inspire. A cookbook author and teacher with an encyclopedic knowledge about food, the late James Beard was a champion of American cuisine. He helped educate and mentor generations of professional chefs and food enthusiasts, instilling in them the value of wholesome, healthful, and delicious food. Today JBF continues in the same spirit by administering a number of diverse programs that include educational initiatives, food industry awards, scholarships for culinary students, publications, chef advocacy training, and thought-leader convening. The Foundation also maintains the historic James Beard House in New York City’s Greenwich Village as a “performance space” for visiting chefs. For more information, please visit jamesbeard.org. Get food news, recipes, and more at the James Beard Foundation’s blog, or subscribe to the free digital newsletter Beard Bites. Follow the James Beard Foundation on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, Pinterest andLivestream.

Key Takeaways

– How Rohini took advantage of the rise of Ethnic Food
– How Rohini planned her research to make her restaurant (she gets very intense! Like interviewing 40 people in 2 months)
– Why Rohini is also very passionate about Women in Culinary Leadership (there’s a scholarship at the end)
– Tips on what they look for as a candidate for a scholarship

Summary of Questions

Previous Job: World Bank and McKinsey
to feed the World
What makes a good chef?:
Taste-minded, Cost-minded, Team oriented, Vision-minded,
Why Does Your Food Job Rock?: “Because I can create an amazing new cuisine and surprise people by how delicious it is.”
Favorite Meal: Home cooking and street dining
What’s the one thing you’d like to know more about: Someone to catapult Rohini’s business (I pitch here about food science)
Advice on how to start your own restaurant: Do your research. Especially the cost.
What do you feel is the difference between New York and Chicago?: New York is more competitive and jaded than Chicago eaters

What We Talk About

Indian Cuisine
Latin Cuisine
Tandoori Skirtsteak (It’s fusion)
Play with food anything south of the US
Women in Culinary Leadership – (Jamesbeard.com)
James Beard Foundation
Stiff upper-lipped Upscale Dining
Grilled Peruvian food in Cuzco
Tempura in Japan
Vermilion in New York and Chicago




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