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Women Shaping the Hospitality Industry in South Florida

In honor of Women’s History Month (March) and International Women’s Day (March 8th), a global holiday and a time to honor women’s contributionsand achievements, here are the trailblazing women who have helped shaped the hospitality industry – each in their own way. Whether it’s in the kitchen, running a business, or overseeing F&B operations, these powerhouse women are slowly leaving their mark on the ever-evolving culinary landscape.  

South Florida

Ashley Stanton Of Isabelle’s Grill Room & Garden, The Ritz-Carlton, Coconut Grove

A native of Buffalo, New York, Ashley Stanton has been part of The Ritz-Carlton family in Florida for the majority of her food and beverage career.

March is Women's History Month! Meet the Trailblazing Women Shaping the Hospitality Industry

A member of The Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove, Miami culinary team since 2012, most recently in the role of Executive Sous Chef, Stanton now serves as Executive Chef for the entire property.

Across all elements of culinary operations, she brings nearly 15 years of expertise, creativity, and an unyielding dedication to the resort.

Upon joining the brand, she rose through the ranks across a variety of positions at the property, gaining extensive management experience and familiarizing herself with Coconut Grove and the market’s evolving tastes.

Stanton has received a number of awards and recognition for her culinary management skills, has competed in television competitions such as Guy’s Grocery Games on Food Network, and keeps her playful side in the spotlight with creations such as her Smithworks Vodka first-place award-winning Buffalo Chicken Wing Bloody Mary.

Her intimate knowledge of the brand and clientele, coupled with her passionate energy for hospitality, led her to be named Executive Chef of the property in 2021. 

Paula Dasilva Of The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale

Director of Culinary and Beverage at The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale Paula DaSilva is directly responsible for the property’s culinary outlets, beverage and wine program, in-room dining, Club Lounge, stewarding, purchasing and receiving, and banquet operations.

March is Women's History Month! Meet the Trailblazing Women Shaping the Hospitality Industry

In addition, she continues to refine and strengthen operational and financial excellence with a substantial focus on elevating the customer experience.

She brings more than two decades of expertise in professional cooking, kitchen management, and an unyielding dedication to excellence to the property.

Prior to this position, DaSilva served as Executive Chef, a role in which she executed innovative and speed-to-market offerings to position Burlock Coast amongst Fort Lauderdale’s top culinary destinations.

DaSilva, who also worked at  3030 Ocean at the Harbor Beach Marriott in Fort Lauderdale under Chef Dean James Max, earned a slot on Season 5, in 2009, of FOX’s Hell’s Kitchen with Gordon Ramsey; she finished as the season’s runner-up and fan favorite, cementing her place as one of Florida’s celebrity chefs.

Victoria James Of Cote Miami & Cote NYC

Victoria James is the Director of Beverage and a partner at Michelin-starred COTE Miami and NYC.

March is Women's History Month! Meet the Trailblazing Women Shaping the Hospitality Industry

Her programs have received a James Beard nomination for “Outstanding Wine Program” two years in a row as well as the Michelin Sommelier of the Year Award in 2022.

She has worked in restaurants since she was thir­teen.

She fell in love with wine and when she was twenty-one became certified as a sommelier, the youngest in the country at the time.

Victoria’s name has appeared on many no­table lists: Forbes “30 Under 30,” Food & Wine’s “Sommelier of the Year,” Zagat’s “30 Under 30,” Wine Enthusiast’s “40 Under 40,” Wine & Spirits’ “Best New Sommeliers,” and The Back Label declared her “New York’s Youngest Sommelier.”

She is the author of DRINK PINK, A Celebration of Rosé (HarperCollins) and the national bestseller WINE GIRL, The Trials and Triumphs of America’s Youngest Sommelier (Ecco/HarperCollins), a Fortnum & Mason Drink Book Winner and recipient of the Roederer Chairman’s Award.

She also is a contributing writer to Esquire, Cosmopolitan, Eater, and Bon Appétit. Along with COTE’s Director of Operations (Amy Zhou) and HR Director (Cynthia Cheng), she co-founded WINE EMPOWERED, a 501c3 non-profit that diversifies the hospitality industry by offering tuition-free wine classes to women and BIPOC.

Most recently COTE NYC has announced a semi-finalist for Outstanding Wine and Other Beverages Program as part of the 2023 James Beard Awards.

Adrianne Calvo Of Cracked By Chef Adrianne & Vineyard By Chef Adrianne

With two distinguished and popular restaurants, six published cookbooks, an Emmy-nominated Youtube series, and a newly launched Cabernet Sauvignon, Chef Adrianne Calvo is a nationally acclaimed chef, author, and mega restaurateur with an accrued Instagram following of over one million.

March is Women's History Month! Meet the Trailblazing Women Shaping the Hospitality Industry

Sixteen years ago, Chef Adrianne Calvo opened her namesake restaurant, Chef Adrianne’s Vineyard Restaurant and Bar at the age of 22. In 2019, Chef Adrianne launched her fine-casual eatery, Cracked by Chef Adrianne.

Equal parts fun as it is serious about food, Cracked by Chef Adrianne has been featured on Food Network, CNN, and Delish boasting about its “drool-worthy” cuisine.

In a true testament to her passion and drive, her culinary empire is now expanded to Baked by Chef Adrianne (opening soon).

Among Chef Adrianne Calvo’s hard-earned achievements, beyond her staple Miami Restaurants – are six cookbooks, Maximum Flavor (2005); Driven by Flavor, Fueled by Fire (2008); #MaximumFlavorSocial (2014); Play with Fire (2015); and The A-List, a two-volume work released in 2018.

She has appeared on the Today Show, Good Morning America, Fox and Friends, Fox News, Food Network’s Chopped, Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay, The Talk, Pickler and Ben, Mornings with Maria, CNN, Hallmark Channel, and has a weekly cooking segment on NBC 6 in the Mix for over 14 years.

Chef Adrianne has earned corporate sponsorships and endorsements from brands such as Reebok, AirBnB, Jaguar, Samuel Adams, The British Virgin Islands, Diamond Resorts International, and more.

Also known for her philanthropic work, Chef Adrianne Calvo launched The Make It Count Foundation in 2007 inspired by her younger sister, Jennifer who passed away from rare cancer.

Jennifer’s motto was “Make It Count” and now that has become the inspiration and driving force behind her non-profit organization whose goal is to make a difference and positively impact the lives of children and teens nationwide. 

Michelle Bernstein

Born and raised in Miami of Jewish and Latinx descent, Chef Michelle “Michy” Bernstein (James Beard Foundation Award-winner in the “Best Chef: South” category in 2008) is a fixture in the culinary world — both in restaurant kitchens and in the media spotlight — paving the way for bright Latin flavors and standout ingredients in her lively, vibrant cuisine.

March is Women's History Month! Meet the Trailblazing Women Shaping the Hospitality Industry

Bernstein’s style melds taste experiences from her travels around the world into her signature style of exciting, eclectic cooking.

These days, Bernstein’s schedule is more jam-packed than ever, juggling multiple projects with her husband and business partner, David Martinez.

Together, they own and operate Michelle Bernstein Catering, developing incredible menus for catered events large and small.

In 2019, Bernstein opened Café La Trova with Maestro Cantinero Julio Cabrera located on Calle Ocho in the heart of Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood.

Café La Trova is a Cuban-inspired bar and restaurant linking traditional dishes with innovative style and technique.

Like many of her previous ventures, it garnered instant acclaim and landed on several of the most coveted Best New Restaurant and Bar lists, including GQ and Esquire magazine.

Additionally, Bernstein and Martinez are partners in the internationally recognized Miami Beach cocktail bar, Sweet Liberty, where Bernstein developed a creative menu of fun, interesting twists on American classic cuisine.

Newer projects include La Cañita, which translates from Spanish to “little sugarcane,” located in Miami’s Bayside Marketplace.

In March 2022, Bernstein and the team behind Sweet Liberty opened Little Liberty in Time Out Market on Lincoln Road featuring an inventive menu of handcrafted burgers, boozy milkshakes, crispy fries, and more creative spins on all-American comfort food.

Coming soon, a modern take on the beloved, award-winning Sra. Martinez will open in Coral Gables (2023), as well as two new concepts — Michy’s Chicken Shack and Lunchería — in the highly anticipated Downtown Miami food hall, Julia & Henry’s.

No stranger to a TV set, Chef Bernstein currently hosts two television shows: Check, Please! South Florida (PBS) and the Emmy-award-winning production SoFlo Taste (Channel 10).

She also regularly appears as a guest judge on nationally televised culinary competition programs, including Top Chef (Bravo TV) and Chopped (Food Network), and continues to make appearances on Good Morning America (ABC) cooking segments.

Bernstein also devotes time to causes she is passionate about, including Common Threads, a national program that she brought to the South Florida community to teach underprivileged children about cooking and eating healthy.

Amberly Ouimette Of Sushi | Bar

One of America’s hottest chefs, Ambrely Ouimette’s rise to culinary fame is what great movies are made of.

March is Women's History Month! Meet the Trailblazing Women Shaping the Hospitality Industry

Her dream of becoming a chef starts with growing up on a small farm in scenic Hudson Valley, New York, and harvesting from the family garden—epitomizing the concept of farm-to-table cooking before it was a well-documented trend.

Her official foray into the hospitality world began at the age of 12 when she finagled her way into a dishwashing job by using her older sister’s work permit.

As a teenager, she embraced grit and hard work by selling hotdogs in the streets of New York, and at the ripe old age of 16, she was already training with sushi chefs at a locale in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts.

During culinary school at SUNY Delhi, Ouimette learned to refine her craft and think on the fly.

After graduating in 2008 with a Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management degree, her career began to soar.

Her hard work and persistence led to a successful stint at Latitude 43, where she developed the necessary skills to prepare for her desired goal to be a top chef.

Her extraordinary ambition and resilience soon earned her a promotion to an apprenticeship with Chef Norio Ishii.

Later, Ouimette went on to further hone her skills through gigs at some of the country’s most renowned seafood-focused kitchens, including Toro (New York City) and alongside the renowned Chef Nobu Matsuhisa (Matsuhisa Denver) and Chef Jason McLeod (Ironside Fish & Oyster).

As one of the country’s only female omakase chefs, Ouimette helped to launch now-acclaimed hot spot Sushi | Bar in Austin (Texas) and Montecito (California) – the latter earning a Michelin Star in 2021.

After being named Executive Chef of Sushi | Bar ATX in 2021, Ouimette refined the 17-course, omakase-style experience, to one that is a departure from traditional offerings, and features contemporary nigiri enhanced with a collection of personally crafted ferments, salts, koshōs, and unique condiments.

The intimate omakase concept recently opened to much applause in Miami Beach, with Ouimette helming the casual but sophisticated culinary programming.

Though she has now reached the success she worked so hard to achieve throughout her life, Ouimette remains steadfast in her dedication to creating a hospitable space for more women chefs to enter and feel welcomed.

Her life’s work is to continue breaking through glass ceilings by propelling a sushi-interested sisterhood, providing a supportive space for women who wish to make their way in the culinary world. 


Summer Bailey Of Boulon Brasserie

A graduate of Pastry Arts at the French Culinary Institute, Executive Pastry Chef, Summer Bailey, brings a resume adorned with all the great New York finesse that restaurateur Jeff Gigante was looking for when building the opening team for his Next Level Brands’ concept Boulon, a french Brasserie that opened January 2023 in the heart of Water Street.

March is Women's History Month! Meet the Trailblazing Women Shaping the Hospitality Industry

Bailey studied under Christina Tosi of Momofuku’s MilkBar, a dream job at the time.

She shares Tosi’s approach to dessert-making.

During her years spent under celebrity chef Andrew Carmellini at The Dutch in New York, she was recognized for those efforts, which quickly graduated her from pastry cook to pastry chef.

The promotion came with recognition in and out of the kitchen and followed her to Tampa where she got her Florida start as Executive Pastry Chef at the iconic Bern’s Steak House.

Bailey has been recognized by media outlets like Vogue, Real Simple, First We Feast, Time Out NY, and Food & Wine Magazine for her delicious desserts, and says that  even the hard-working have “pinch-me moments.”

Two of her career highlights include participating in Dominique Ansel’s Midnight in Paris during New York City Wine & Food Festival, and preparing her play on a Louisiana staple – bananas foster souffle – for CNN’s “Just Desserts.”

In her role as Executive Pastry Chef, Bailey oversees Boulon Bakery and all of the Next Level Brands’ dessert programs. 

Heather Rivas Of Boulon Brasserie

As an industry veteran with over 15 years of experience in high volume, casual, and fine dining restaurants, Heather Rivas brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her position as General Manager of Next Level Brands’ brand-new Boulon Brasserie in Tampa, Florida.

March is Women's History Month! Meet the Trailblazing Women Shaping the Hospitality Industry

An Ohio native who studied Health & Nutrition at the University of Cincinnati, Rivas has dedicated her career to learning and understanding people, food, and the relationship between the two.

With an unquenchable appetite for knowledge of the hospitality industry, combined with her ambitious nature, Rivas honed her restaurant business acumen at some of the top destinations on the East Coast and in the Lowcountry, including New York City, Boston, Providence, and Savannah.

Over the course of her career, she has had the opportunity to work at many prestigious restaurants, most notably as General Manager for James Beard Award-winning chef, Sean Brock at his acclaimed restaurant Husk Savannah and as opening General Manager at Tiger Mama, a Boston restaurant helmed by James Beard Award-nominated chef Tiffani Faison.

Rivas also spent the early part of her career as General Manager at Mill’s Tavern, the Forbes Four-Star restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island.

Her connection to food, wine, and service, along with her experience opening restaurants, has given her the opportunity to work in different markets and she now brings her talents to Tampa.

With a healthy dose of wanderlust and a keen interest in international communities, Rivas has traveled the world, which contributes to her overall appreciation for culture, food, and storytelling.

She is devoted to her craft, particularly wine, and boasts two Wine Spectator Awards of Excellence for lists she has curated.

She was also invited to the James Beard House and had the honor to pair wines for a Regional Spotlight dinner, in which she was acknowledged for her outstanding contribution.

Additionally, Rivas holds a Court of Masters Sommeliers Level 1 Certification and plans to continue her advancement within the Court. 

Laura Backsman Of Forbici Modern Italian

An industry veteran with over 15 years of experience in restaurant management, Laura Backsman brings a wealth of knowledge and skills to her General Manager position at Forbici Modern Italian in Tampa, Florida.

March is Women's History Month! Meet the Trailblazing Women Shaping the Hospitality Industry

Backsman’s venture into restaurant management came at just 19 years old.

While her peers were sleeping in, she was opening a bakery at 4:30 a.m.

Her commitment to creating memorable experiences for guests has been a skill set that she has honed throughout her career.

For Backsman, joy is making others happy – turning ordinary moments into memories and making regulars feel like family. Backsman credits much of her industry know-how to Next Level Brands partner and hospitality powerhouse Jeff Gigante, who mentored her into her current position as  General Manager.

Backsman adheres to famed restaurateur Cameron Mitchell’s slogan, “Yes is the answer—What is the question?” and says prioritizing others’ feelings is key, whether it’s the guests or the teams.

When Backsman is not in the restaurant, you can find her creating unique oil paintings. If you’ve ever admired Forbici’s amazing chalkboards, you’ve admired her work. 

Hannah Thomas Of Bern’s Steak House

A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu, Executive Pastry Chef Hannah Thomas’ tenure at iconic Bern’s Steak House and Harry Waugh Dessert Room, has covered some of the restaurant’s most challenging times, including the pandemic when the industry was rattled.

March is Women's History Month! Meet the Trailblazing Women Shaping the Hospitality Industry

Thomas credits her earlier learning from working with Chef Pat at Streamsong Resort where she learned to make desserts that were pieces of art.

After several years with the resort, Hannah accepted the position at Bern’s, where there’s not only a dessert selection, there’s an entire dessert room, upstairs above the dining rooms.

Visitors from around the world indulge in delectables offered at the Harry Waugh Dessert Room.

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