Brand Ambassador: Johanna Ware – Evolution of Expression
A restaurant kitchen can be a bit of a boys club, and I don’t mind that. I love the camaraderie, the stupid jokes, and the locker room talk that sometimes ensues. Yet when I look back on my time cooking in New York I realize that the dynamic of the kitchen ended up weighing on my already hard attitude. I realized I couldn’t be vulnerable, couldn’t be feminine, if I talked to a female we were looked at as chatty but that same conversation with a male wasn’t judged the same way. Honestly though, I protected myself by choosing some of those actions and decisions because I just wanted to be thought of for my skill. I think I would have avoided being put in a box no matter what my gender was. I always want to be thought of as a chef, not as just a female chef.
When I opened Smallwares and started to get my own accolades it gave me a different confidence. It wasn’t about anything really, except how my food tasted. I had sort of stayed under the radar in Portland and so people really just were judging me on my food. I had a staff that respected me, they believed in the restaurant and what we did everyday. It was about a year and a half into Smallwares that I started to feel comfortable allowing my staff to see who I was outside of my work persona.
Six days a week I wake up and put the same outfit on.. Black smallwares/or any free restaurant T shirt I have, my black jeans, clogs, apron, and hair up in a bun. So, on that one day off it’s my day to dress and express myself not through my food but through my appearance. Not in an artificial way but in an expressive way. About four years ago I bought a pair of shit kicker, ankle high boots that I became obsessed with. It was like my first date with boots and I knew we were going to get serious.. So when Trask asked me to be a brand ambassador I thought it was a joke. Did they know how much I loved boots? I love the sound of tenacity they can make when I walk in them, their versatility of style, plus the history and craft that goes into making them.
I love the path I have taken and have no regrets. Starting out in a career you put your head down, get your job done. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out who you are in your profession and where you are going. I still have more growth and learning to do, but I understand how I got where I am today. Three years ago I would have never worn my hair down to work. I would have never had line cooks, servers, or customers see me in my “going out” clothes. Now I had the staff excited to help me pick out boots from Trask. It’s liberating for me to be recognized for what I do, and to finally be okay with who I have always been.
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