For two plus decades, Dana Klitzberg has been living and breathing Italian cuisine. Fun fact: she is the first (and maybe the only) American female to serve as Executive Chef of a restaurant in Italy…and she did it twice! She began her professional cooking career at San Domenico in New York, but later moved to Rome and spent eight years cooking. While cooking in restaurants, Dana launched international catering company blu aubergine and wrote for various publications like Time Out and Fodor‘s guides. She still writes, caters, teaches culinary classes, and leads food tours.
How did you find your way into the historically male-dominated culinary industry?
Through the restaurant kitchen, one that was actually led by a female Executive Chef. Unfortunately, she was a bit territorial in her all-male kitchen, ruling the roost as it were. But when it came down to it, she always went to bat for women. I’ve been pushing through male-guarded kitchen doors ever since!
What has been a defining moment, positive or negative, in your career?
The moment I became the first female American Executive Chef of a restaurant in Italy. And the second time, when I did it again. I successfully ran a restaurant in a language that wasn’t my mother tongue! That felt amazing.
Tell us about the women who serve up culinary inspiration in your life.
There are rock stars like Domenique Crenn, who are obviously at the top of their game. But there are also women unceremoniously running kitchens or food companies in a compassionate manner and in a way that builds relationships and teamwork instead of fostering unnecessary competition or building fear. A lot of these women aren’t household names, but they’re out there making things better for everyone in the culinary industry.
What advice do you have for women trying to build their culinary careers?
Don’t ever give up, keep your head on straight, be strong, and prove that you’re every bit as good as (and usually better than) the men who surround you professionally!