Woman Up: Meet the women running Dig Inn’s kitchens
Chatting with Stephanie Yee about Gordon Ramsay, her kitchen mantra, and what’s in her perfect bowl.
In honor of Women’s History (Herstory) Month, we’re celebrating the powerhouse women who run the kitchens in our restaurants. In an industry where women represent 50% of culinary school grads and 52% of restaurant workers but only 19% of executive chefs, Dig Inn’s team of head chefs are 40% women. Out of our 19 restaurants in New York and Boston, we have eight outstanding women at the helm:
-Shanieka Forrest (at 275 Madison Ave.)
-Kelly Gladstone (at 150 E. 52nd St.)
-Sydne Gooden (at 70 Prince St.)
-Shana Jacques (at 17 E. 17th St.)
-Mona James (at 2884 Broadway)
-Amy Stonionis (at multiple restaurants)
-Joy Strang (at 1297 Lexington Ave.)
-Stephanie Yee (at 80 Pine St.).
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing interviews with all of them, so you can get to know the women who cook, lead, inspire, and make each kitchen her own. First up: Stephanie Yee.
Stephanie is head chef at 80 Pine St. in FiDi. Only 26, she’s been in the restaurant industry basically since birth. When she was growing up in Forest Hills, Queens, her father worked in different restaurants, first as a waiter then a general manager. At home, he taught Stephanie to cook Chinese dishes like stir-fried lobster with minced pork, ginger, and scallions.
After earning her degree in hospitality management from Syracuse University, she worked as a pastry cook for Sullivan Street Bakery and as a location manager for Fuku before joining Dig Inn five months ago. As head chef, she cooks from scratch, leads a kitchen team, mentors chefs-in-training, manages food and labor costs, and develops recipes for insanely delicious specials.
Stephanie lives in Flushing with her husband, Tony Quach, who founded the culty Taiwanese shaved ice cream shop, Snowdays, four years ago. They have an eight-month-old daughter, Penelope, and if you’re good at math, you’ll have calculated that Stephanie started as head chef when Penelope was three months old. (Someone give this woman an award please.)
If you’re in the neighborhood of 80 Pine St., stop by, say hi, and order some cashew kale caesar, Stephanie’s favorite side!
Q: What’s your favorite food memory?
A: I studied abroad in Hong Kong for six months. My mom is from China, and we visited the village where her family lives. They don’t cook in a kitchen. They cook outside over a fire, using the vegetables and rice they grew themselves, killing the chickens running around the backyard. It felt special — eating food that was part of my mom’s culture. I wasn’t able to have a full conversation with her family, but once the food was served, it was like everybody spoke the same language.
Q: If you could cook any meal for any person anywhere in the world, what would it be?
A: I’d cook for Gordon Ramsay because he scares the shit out of me, but I know I’d learn a lot from his feedback. I don’t know what I’d make, but I’d cook in Hong Kong because that’s part of me.
Q: What makes you feel powerful outside the restaurant?
A: Cooking at home. My husband and I are both in the restaurant industry, so we care a lot about food. When we’re cooking dinner, he always asks me for help. He’s very good with his flavors, but in terms of techniques like braising or roasting, he’ll ask my opinion. Right now, he’s aging steak in our fridge — but he’ll come to me and ask how to prepare it, and I’ll suggest thinly slicing and putting it on a sandwich with some melted cheese.
Q: How do you deal with the intensity of the kitchen?
A: When shit hits the fan, I try to think positive and tell myself that no one is dying and nothing has burned down. Those are the two worst case scenarios in a restaurant.
Q: What’s your favorite Dig Inn home hack?
A: I bring the brown rice home and stir-fry it with ginger and scallions, then add some chopped-up broccoli. I’ve also used steak for sandwiches with mixed greens, garlic aioli, sliced avocado — all on a baguette.
Q: What have you learned most about yourself on your journey to becoming a chef?
A: It takes a lot of patience and constant small changes to get better.
Q: What’s in your perfect bowl?
A: Brown rice, grilled steak, cashew kale caesar, sautéed broccoli w/ lemon, avocado, garlic aioli, and pesto. This is my perfect bowl because I love steak, especially when it’s medium-rare and juicy. I love the garlic in the broccoli, and the cashews in the kale caesar. That was my first ever vegan caesar!