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Holden Chef Subject of Documentary Exploring Women in the Restaurant Industry

Wednesday, April 01, 2015


Valerie James

Valerie James, chef and owner of Val’s Restaurant in Holden, will be the subject of a feature length documentary that looks at the role of women in the restaurant industry and the inequality gap in the culinary world.

Joanna James, Val’s daughter, is the director of the documentary that will tell her mother’s story of 25 years in the restaurant business.

“It’s a true American success story,” said Joanna. “She’s (Val) a self-made person. Just seeing all that she’s done made me want to tell her story. She represents women in the industry, and something even larger for women everywhere.”

The inspiration to make the documentary came from not only Val’s story, but also from statistics for the U.S.. Bureau of Labor. According to the stats, women only make up 15% of the executive chefs in the U.S..

Joanna also notes a 2013 TIME magazine story titled “The Gods of Food,” which listed 50 executive chefs across the country “who most influence what we eat-and how we think about it.” Not one woman was mentioned out of the 50 chefs featured.

Joanna James

“A lot of women in the industry need exposure,” said Joanna. “And that is what we are hoping to do with this documentary. It’s a lot of different things we are exploring to encourage women to get involved in the restaurant industry.”

The documentary will also feature celebrity female chefs including President of the Women’s Chef and Restaurateur Group Elizabeth Faulkner, Boston’s own Barbara Lynch, Food Network’s Michelle Bernstein, and NYC’s Carmen Gonzalez. According to Joanna, Faulkner and the other chefs were drawn to Val’s story.

“She (Val) has gusto and personality. They fell in love with who she is and what she signifies,” said Joanna.

Joanna and the film’s Executive Producer Anastasia Ganias have started a Kickstarter Campaign to raise the necessary minimum $60,000 for the documentary’s remaining costs of production and final editing.

When GoLocal asked Joanna what her end goal is once this documentary is completed, she said, “I’d like to leave a legacy for my daughter. I wanted to show her who the matriarch in the family is. The film is taking what my mother did, and using her story to help the next generation.”


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