5 Berkshire Restaurants Proudly Run by Women
Posted on October 14, 2021Written by Abby Leadbetter
Though the culinary industry is traditionally dominated by men, women restaurateurs and chefs are at the helm of a new generation of Berkshire restaurants founded on a shared vision of connecting people and communities through delicious food. Here are just a few to whet your appetite.
From Wall Street to North Street in Pittsfield, Methuselah Bar & Lounge owner Yuki Cohen took a winding path to the Berkshire food scene from her career as a financial advisor. Since opening her rustic-chic cocktail and tapas restaurant in the city’s cultural district in 2015, her idea for an upscale hangout has evolved along with the changing landscape of a revitalized downtown. The restaurant’s central location, along with great cocktails, food, and live music, appeals to a wide audience. “We see the theater goers, we see the young professionals from the city who have moved to the country, and we also see a young local crowd.” On being a woman in business, Yuki says, “I love being a business owner. I hope more women are encouraged to take the plunge and take a chance, especially in the Berkshires.”
Colleen Taylor, co-owner with her brother of Freight Yard Pub, Trail House Kitchen, and Craft Food Barn in Adams, agrees. While each of their restaurants offers a different concept, they share a farm-to-table approach and a commitment to helping their employees feel supported and part of a team where they can grow. “We’re part of the community here,” she says. “We support them and they support us.”
In Lee, Cordon Bleu-trained pastry chef Rachel Portnoy has partnered with her chef husband, Franck Tessier, at their restaurant Chez Nous since 2005, creating house-made food with fresh, local ingredients and French flair. In April 2021, the couple rebranded as Café Triskele, changing the menu to a more casual, take-out friendly approach. It has been well-received by both visitors and locals. Finding the balance between what they want their business to be and what their customers want and adjusting accordingly has helped sustain them over the years, she says, including through the uncertainty and understaffing widespread throughout the industry during the pandemic.
When Aura Whitman, chef/proprietor of nAtURAlly’s Kitchen (located at Berkshire Mountain Bakery in Pittsfield), went to cooking school in the mid-1980s, there were 10 guys for every girl. “It’s still predominantly male,” she says, “but there are more women now and that’s encouraging.” Trained at the Culinary Institute of America and at Cordon Bleu in Paris, Aura has started and managed several restaurants in the Berkshires, including Café Reva in Pittsfield and her own catering/takeout business. Speaking on what sets the Berkshire food scene apart, she says it is the climate, the soil, and sustainable farming. “I come from family farms and I try to support that. You can find everything here, seasonally, and I love this region for that.”
“There are such incredibly strong leaders in the (Berkshire) food scene,” says Molly Lyon-Joseph, proprietor of Frankie’s Ristorante and co-owner of Pizzeria Boema in Lenox. “There’s never any fear of competition. There’s a collective striving to continue making this a destination, for visitors and for locals.” On her vision for the ideal restaurant experience, Molly says it’s about community and feeling good, creating a fun vibe, and building relationships in the community. “We want to create an experience, not just be a place to grab dinner.”
Written by Nancy Macy