Women On the Line documentary: a tribute to gender-balanced kitchens

By Brittany Tiplady

What would a balanced kitchen taste like? The creatives behind the Women on the Line documentary are chopping through the culinary glass ceiling to find out.

As more talented female chefs are entering commercial kitchens proving they have the chops run with the old boys club, the increase of femininity is creating some much-needed change in the industry.

Women On the Line, a film tribute, challenges the dichotomy of gender balance and male-dominated ego in the culinary world. From the perspective of Savio Volpe‘s co-sous chef Melanie Witt, Women On the Line unveils the uphill demands of the industry, while exploring the importance of strong female leadership in kitchens.

Stills from Women On the Line.

“I think most women have felt that they have something to prove in kitchens,” said Witt over tea at Le Marche St. George.

“But it’s been so amazing to see the response to this project and see so many different people from so many different aspects of the industry come forward and be so supportive. It’s sparked a real curiosity. It’s a very positive thing.”

Formerly at Wildebeest and Bufala, Witt has found home in the traditional and classic dishes served up in the lofty Fraserhood osteria.

“I’ve been really fortunate to be supported. Especially in this project,” said Witt.

“A lot of it has to do with the food. Savio is very classic Italian, which is really unfussy, ingredient driven, very simple food. It doesn’t really follow trends, it’s these really traditional recipes that go back years. There is not a lot of room for hype or macho trend-driven food that I feel is really popular right now. There is  a lot of comfort in that for me because it’s all about traditional recipes that haven’t been messed with.”

Witt in her element at Savio Volpe. Stills from Women On the Line.

Women On the Line‘s pitch video created for STORYHIVE wasn’t awarded the $10,000 grant to continue production, however, director Brianna Wiens and the team are still eager to move forward with the project.

“Now we have a little more freedom as to the length [of the documentary], and there’s no hard deadline to deliver. So our creative freedom can be a bit more lenient,” said Wiens.

“We have had quite a few people reach out to us, and offer support one way or another. The team is looking to make it work. We are wanting to film over the following months, but it’s still such an exploration for us. Now we can really explore some of the questions we have and maybe work some more people into it.”

Wiens, an actor, producer, writer, and director, has a steady hand on film and theatre, having had her own comedy web series Girls vs. The City funded by STORYHIVE this summer. Women On the Line, however, is her documentary directing debut complemented by the stunning cinematography of DOP Brian Ceci.

“I am an actor, so of course I’ve worked in a lot of restaurants, and my first-hand experience was not seeing a lot of women in the kitchen. This film stemmed from that conversation, while trying not to make assumptions but just that curiosity as to why that is the case,” Wiens explained.

“The more people we reach, the more support we can get, and the more people can hear about our story. All the businesses that are male driven, women working in them have become tougher, stronger.”

While the creative team for Women On the Line continues to grow the project, you can find Witt honing her skills in the kitchen at Savio Volpe. Having recently earned a nod from enRoute magazine, Witt is focused on diversifying her hand at leadership amongst the buzz.

The lofty open concept kitchen at Savio

“I’m still learning and I am nowhere near the pinnacle of my career, but being a sous chef means you need to take control of situations and talk to people, and tell people to do things. You are often in a really stressful situation and need to learn how to control yourself and control your emotions.”

“My focus is on becoming the best leader that I can be. And that’s what is driving me right now. To learn about different types of leadership and what works and what doesn’t and what people think about women has leaders,” concludes Witt.

You can follow Women On the Line on Instagram and Facebook to keep up with the documentary’s progress. Visit STORYHIVE to watch the Women on the Line pitch video here

brittany photo

Brittany Tiplady is a part-time poet, and a full-time goat cheese enthusiast. She loves the indoors, fast wifi, collecting maps, and a generous glass of red wine.