They are otherwise known as Sarah Adams and Nikki Anhalt, two veterans of the Charleston, South Carolina, restaurant scene who teamed up last year to create a traveling series of themed pop-up dinner parties. Their mission, as their website puts it, is to “cultivate the ultimate dining experience powered by badass women” and to spread the message that women in the food industry need more recognition and support.
In an era when Momofuku Milk Bar founder Christina Tosi still gets asked about her weight instead of her business strategy, and women are routinely left off lists of top chefs (not to mention held back by policies that penalize them for having children), The Bad Bitches seem to have arrived right on time.
“We know this because we’ve lived it,” Anhalt said. Both women have a long history of working in restaurants: Anhalt as a bartender and Adams as a chef.
“It takes a special kind of woman to be in food and beverage,” Adams told BuzzFeed. She says she “went from the sorority house to the dish pit” at age 22, getting her start in the kitchen as a dishwasher.
“I’ve worked for a chef where I wasn’t considered an equal,” she said. “I could see around me that I wasn’t treated the same as the men there. But I learned how to work really hard, I learned how to work smart, I learned how to work fast.”
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They seek out women event vendors, too, for things like photography and flowers.
So far, they’ve given about half the cash away to women to do things like attend culinary school, enroll in a sommelier class, or to start a podcast about food.
The series features photos of 16 women in the industry, stripped down and sharing personal stories about their relationship with food.
And the dinners that started it all just keep growing. The Bad Bitches recently took their pop-up party on the road, first to Nashville and, most recently, to New York City. I attended the New York dinner at the end of January, which was summer-themed and featured grilled meats, scorpion bowls, and plenty of tiny umbrellas.
I talked to chef and food stylist Lauren Unger, the blogger behind Hint of Greens, who was at the party to help out chef Nicole Karr, who had teamed up with The Bad Bitches.
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While women put on the show, men can at least attend the dinners. Curious to hear what someone of the opposite sex thought, I asked Anthony Eu, one of the guests.
He told me that “watching amazing, wonderful women kick ass in an industry dominated by men” was a refreshing way to spend a Monday night.
Moving forward, The Bad Bitches say they’re going to continue to raise money for the scholarship fund through their dinner parties, possibly expanding to more cities in the future. But they emphasize that their primary goal isn’t to highlight the hardship of women in the industry — it’s to celebrate them.
“We’re always going to be two women who throw amazing parties to support women; that’s who we are,” Anhalt said. “But we want to show the joyous side of the industry. It’s not about being in a race with men.”
Still, her favorite part of every party is all about women.
“It’s silly, but one of my favorite moments is at the end of the dinners,” Anhalt said. “I love watching the women work. I’ve worked a ton of events, but with women I never have to say, ‘Oh, can you wipe down this table or take this tablecloth off?’ I look up, and it’s just getting done.”