Let's Celebrate Women in Hospitality

Three women on strike in 1913.

Words by: Kelly Tapper

Photography by: Nancy Zhou & Supplied 

To mark International Women's Day, we reached out to five women who live and breathe hospitality in Christchurch. These women put in the hard yards, work tirelessly (dishes and all) and have the energy and stamina to do hospo day in day out with a smile in tow. We have massive respect for that.  

Amongst their answers a common thread emerges. These Women - sommieliers to gelato makers - love connecting with people. It is inspiring to hear how they chose their path (or rather it choosing them in some cases) and they've shared some tips for budding hospo wāhine out there. 

Penny Naish from Black Estate.

Penny Naish, Owner of Black Estate

How did you get into hospitality? 

When we moved to North Canterbury and first started growing grapes at Black Estate (before we built the restaurant and cellar door),  I couldn’t believe the quality and expression of the produce grown by small farms.  We also loved the use of wild food by new friends out there.  Inspired by the strong food community in the valley, we realised our new tasting room was going to have to include food, to show more of what grows around our vines.   So that’s when I first got into hospitality - when we opened Black Estate cellar door & restaurant in 2012.

What are the highlights and lowlights of the job? 

The highlight is working in an industry which is full of kind and generous people, who appreciate the art of hospitality, and feeding and nurturing humans!  I also love meeting food and wine loving guests and seeing a community build around us where we all learn more about where our food comes from.  We love the chance to share and highlight the quality of organic and biodynamic farming behind our wines and food.  

Lowlights is the fact that more New Zealanders don't see hospitality as a serious career.  We have so much to learn about our planet and NZ agriculture, by working in hospitality. New Zealand could be world leading in hospitality, it has the ingredients!

What advice would you give to women wanting to start their own hospitality business?

Just do it. Build it and they will come. Have a strong vision about what you want to do and you will always be motivated and attract a great team to help make it happen. Anything is possible if you have a great team and you're honest, about your strengths and weaknesses and with your staff and guests.

Why do you think women are important in hospitality?

Women are great leaders, and I think we need more women leading kitchens and front of house. We need women's perspectives on more wine lists, menus, and their vision of what makes a great restaurant. I think women can help build great communities around hospitality venues which is important for this increasingly digitised world. Restaurants are important social spaces and women can help bring people and conversations together. I’m sure men can too, but in order to have more women in leading roles in hospitality, we need to be dynamic and support them with good roles while raising a family.

You can read more about Black Estate here

Mandy Klapschuweit in her Utopia Ice store on High Street, Christchurch.

Mandy Klapschuweit, Owner of Utopia Ice

How did you get into hospitality? 

I grew up on an island in former East Germany. I always had big dreams of seeing more of the world, and being working class back then meant I needed to earn my own money to have the privilege. Hospitality jobs during and after school were simply a way to become financially independent and get away.

 What are the highlights and lowlights of the job? 

Well, I could fill a book with that, but keeping it short. Highlights: realness, creativity and Monday’s at the beach. Lowlights: back pain, juggling work and family life, Covid-19.  

What advice would you give to women wanting to start their own hospitality business? 

Please don’t start a hospitality business if you never worked in the industry before.

When you start small, be prepared to not only make and serve food, but also to be an accountant, marketing and sales agent, and social worker all in one. You will most likely clean toilets as well. Being the boss also means you have to be bossy at times.

Why do you think women are important in hospitality?

More women in leadership roles are important in every industry. If you want to have equal partnerships, workplaces and society, then we need the will to change our attitudes with empathy. Women can bring home the money and men can take care of the babies. Simply be a team without the stereotypes.

Emma Mettrick, Owner of Twenty Seven Steps.

Emma Mettrick from Twenty Seven Steps

How did you get into hospitality?

My first job was at the Astrolabe in Akaroa for the summer of 1996-7. I was a cantankerous teenager who didn't want to go on the family holiday as I was too old (16!) and wanted to go to the Gatherings festival but I was deemed too young by my parents so I got myself a summer job as a compromise. At the time I was unsure why they were hiring me for the summer with no experience but after running a restaurant there for 5 years much later I now realise how hard staffing is over there and really everywhere. I had a great summer - first time away from home for an extended period and worked between dishes, pizza cheffing and the floor. I was hooked! Hospitality saw me though university, travelling and now adulting (sometimes re. adulting!). I realised after returning from overseas it was my real job.

What are the highlights and lowlights of the job?

Highlights are always the people. I still love making peoples night on the floor. I love looking after our team, finding new products, supporting our suppliers - some who are like whānau now and have met some of my dearest friends through the industry.

Downsides are the relentlessness - it is an immediate industry, if someone is sick we still need the same number of people to operate - so planning time off is hard! There is very little glamour in owning a restaurant despite some perceptions. I remember our first NYE in Akaroa. My parents came and washed dishes for Paul and I. At the end of the night they looked at us and said 'there's easier ways to earn a living guys!' But we love it. And you can't ignore the financial pressures of the last couple of years. It is no secret Covid-19 has had a huge impact on our industry and that the hardest months are about to come. Please everyone support your favourite businesses!

What advice would you give to women wanting to start their own hospitality business?

After the last two years I think I would say don't do it! But usually I would say trust your gut. Make sure you have worked in the industry in a broad range of places so you are doing what you know. And get your girl gang. My fellow hospo-mums keep me sane. We operate a code of silence policy and share everything - parenting issues, staffing issues, current trading, ideas, resources etc. I couldn't do it without them.

Why do you think women are important in hospitality?

We are approx 50% of the population. Representation is everything. You could say we have more of a nurturing side, but assigning traditional gender roles in 2022 isn't really relevant. Many different people (race, gender, class) make up humanity and we all need to be seen in all sectors of society.

You can read more about Twenty Seven Steps here

Ava and her baby at Little Poms.

Ava Wilson, Owner of Pomeroy's

How did you get into hospitality?

Both sets of my parents were in hospitality when I was a teenager. It started as a Sunday job helping out my step dad and just stuck. I had other jobs, studied make up artistry but always seemed to find myself coming back to it. 

What are the highlights and lowlights of the job?

People. The team I work with every day and have had the privilege to work with over the years. I think in my family sharing food and being together is definitely our love language and it is pretty special to see something that we care deeply about be something that people come back to time and time again. Lowlights, its hard to look past Covid-19 right now and see any other that’s a downer… But Covid aside, its always really hard losing good people! Our team become part of the place and its always hard when their time is up!

What advice would you give to women wanting to start their own hospitality business?

Be patient. You’re only as good as your people and remember nothing comes before your health (both mental and physical). 

Why do you think women are important in hospitality?

I think theres a lot of traits that women inherently have that transfer well to hospitality, that and we’re just really good at it!

You can read more about Pomeroy's here

Loren Mitchell-Moore at Pyramid Vineyard.

Loren Mitchell-Moore, Head Sommelier at Cellar Door

How did you get into hospitality?

I actually started with a part-time job in a bar that a friend was working at. I had just left a university course that I wasn’t enjoying and thought it would be a good summer job while I figured out what I wanted to do next. I never thought that would be it!

What are the highlights and lowlights of the job?

Highlights are getting to talk to people about wine everyday. I love helping guests choose a wine that they feel really excited about.

What advice would you give to budding women sommeliers out there?

Trust yourself. It is very easy to get overwhelmed and second guess yourself when tasting wine but your first instincts are often correct. Also, get out there and taste and experience as much as you can. Don’t shy away from opportunities.

What wine are you most looking forward to trying this Autumn?

Autumn is such an exciting time in the wine industry. There is so much coming out of barrel before the next vintage goes in. I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes out of North Canterbury. I have been lucky enough to try some really lovely chardonnays from the barrel recently and I can’t wait to see them finished.

You can read more about Cellar Door here

Neat Christchurch & Canterbury Places

Bonobo Café

Birds-eye view of four dishes on a pink table at Bonobo, Christchurch.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury
Cafes key icon.

Bonobo: a benevolent primate, a trip-hop artist and more recently a plant-based cuisine destination in the seaside suburb of Sumner.

Tūranga

Harry Potter stairs at Turanga.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury
Stay and explore key icon. Services key icon.

It’s not often that grand designs are plucked from the mind’s eye and brought to life. At Tūranga they are, every day.

Miss Peppercorn

Three different cocktails on a black table with straws.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury
Restaurants key icon.

Miss Peppercorn is a modern eatery, celebrating the fragrant and mouth-numbing flavours of the owner's hometown in the Chinese province of Sichuan.

Tomi Japanese Restaurant

Looking over the counter into the kitchen where the chef is.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury
Restaurants key icon.

Serving authentic Japanese cuisine, Tomi is most famous for their sashimi sourced from the local fish market.