I’m doing something I never do- I’m writing from a place of anger. And I might even hit publish when I’m done.
Today the Chicago tribune broke the story that I’m starting an ice cream company (woo-hoo!) called Pretty Cool Ice Cream.
Louisa Chu wrote a great and thorough piece that included bits about my book, incredibly kind comments from Paul Kahan, and a bit of information about the flagship storefront opening in Logan Square. She even went to Publican Anker and created video content over scoops of my ice cream. I am grateful for all the work she put into this.
When I considered who I wanted to give the story to, because I am fortunate enough to have the privilege of choosing at this point in my career- for the first time, I considered the gender of the journalist. I also chose someone I have known for years and years, long before I came to Chicago. In 2005 Louisa Chu was cooking in France, and wrote a blog called The Moveable Feast. I was cooking in Seattle and preparing for a long stage at The Fat Duck. She wrote a blog post about what to bring with you on your european stage- and it came just in time for me to collect those items before getting on an airplane. A comment by me led to email exchanges, and before you knew it we had shared secrets about underwear tactics for co-ed changing rooms.
Fast forward to this weekend, we were preparing to make the announcement that I was leaving the publican behind in March to focus on the ice cream company I have been building for over a year. Gratefully, Louisa Chu agreed to cover the story and run it in The Chicago Tribune.
As part of the story, we announced my partnership with Michael Ciapciak- an amazing guy who owns Bang Bang Pie Shop, a complimentary concept to ice cream, no doubt. Michael and I have been talking about how well pie and ice cream go together for years, and when I was ready to turn my own business plan into a reality, the conversations we had been having carried us forward. We agreed to work together, with Michael continuing to focus on his own growing dessert business, and adding his gift for making people happy and experience operating a concpet to my business in any way he could. I feel very fortunate to have a partner to work with, and one who was willing to add their strengths to what I was building. He’s going to make Pretty Cool Ice Cream better than I would have done on my own in so many ways.
So what is there to possibly be angry about- I have a great location, a great concept, a great partner, great support from the restaurant group I am leaving, and great press coverage out of the gate?
My anger arises from the follow up article written by Eater- titled “Bang Bang Pies to Open an Ice Cream shop with Beard-Nominated Chef.” We were always concerned that the media would skew my own shop to be a Bang Bang concept who tapped Dana Cree as a pastry chef, and openly discussed this possibility, checking in with our own egos and being sensitive to each others. Seriously- Michael is a great partner.
But the really really angering part is summed up in this sentence….
“But it looks like owner Michael Ciapciak wants to expand his dessert domination over to ice cream. He wasn’t immediately reached for comment.”
The author of this article read about a partnership between a woman and a man and immediately assumed the man was the lead, and only reached out to the man for comment. An article discussing a woman starting a company that mentions a man as a partner- admittedly only looks like the man is expanding their dessert domination. A man that has been in the dessert business for 5 years vs. a woman who has been in the dessert business for 18 years. A woman who has already started a line of ice cream, written a book about ice cream, devoted their entire career to ice cream, earned awards for their work in dessert, and groomed themselves in the business side of desserts under the tutelage of the successful restaurant group One Off Hospitality for 6 years.
The original Tribune article even says “The Publican pastry chef Dana Cree will open Pretty Cool Ice Cream, her own company….”
But yeah, after reading all this, to the author of the Eater article it looks like the man is expanding their dessert domination.
I am very fortunate- when I shared this with Michael, he totally got it. But even he admitted he didn’t think of it until I mentioned that only the male partner was reached out to for comment. He acknowledged how wrong it is.
You can try to shift the angle, and say that Bang Bang Pie will drive more clicks in a title, or their reputation is stronger than mine. You can tell me that no press is bad press. But you can’t tell me the focus on the man over the woman isn’t real, or that I shouldn’t talk about it.
Fact- I am grateful to have the partnership of person who grew another dessert brand, male or female.
Fact- I am absolutely not ashamed or jealous of sharing a spotlight with Michael, he’s just great and I am proud to be there with him side by side.
Fact- The first follow up to the news that we were partnering was focused on the man as the business lead and the woman as the talent, without even reaching out to her for comment.
Fact- It’s likely the perception of male and female roles in business is so unconsciously engrained in our culture that the author didn’t even realize what they were doing.
In the end, wether Bang Bang’s name comes before Dana Cree’s name in the title of an article, Michael and I are building something we are extremely excited about and the ice cream is gonna be pretty cool. I can’t wait for the city of chicago to get their first taste. And moving forward, that is the part I would like to shift my focus on entirely. And if the media steps up and stops assuming and automatically presenting men as the lead, I can sit down and do just that.
But come on- we can do better. We will do better. I won’t sit quietly around until we do.