Bank of America Women’s Leadership Series Kicks Off 2018-2019 Season with Celebrated Female Asian Chefs

Jeff Fantich photo

Jeff Fantich photo    

HOUSTON: Asia Society Texas Center launched the fourth year of its Bank of America Women’s Leadership Series on September 13 with a sold-out luncheon showcasing three local visionaries in Houston’s burgeoning culinary industry. About 200 people attended the event, which showcased Christine Hà (winner of MasterChef season 3 and owner of The Blind Goat), Jenni Tranweaver (chef and owner of Jenni’s Noodle House), and Kiran Verma (chef and owner of the eponymous Kiran’s), and was moderated by Vani Rao of BP America.

 The three chefs shared their thoughts on succeeding as women in a male-dominated field, lessons learned from friends and family, and how their paths led them to the culinary arts. An overarching message emerged about the importance of confidence and trusting in oneself, with Tranweaver adding, “Know yourself; know which of your pains are shortcomings, so they don’t hold you back.”

 Another theme was the ability to evolve to meet new challenges. Hà said, “It’s important to always stay curious and be hungry. Sometimes when you become more mature in your experience, I think you become jaded and set in your ways. You have to learn to adapt.”

 Kiran Verma shared a common chef/restaurateur challenge, remarking, “People see how busy we are, but that’s still really not success. If I make this food and people are standing in line to eat, now [that’s] success.”

Moderator Vani Rao, top left, and speakers Jenni Tranweaver, top right; Christine Ha, bottom left; and Kiran Verma, bottom right. 

Moderator Vani Rao, top left, and speakers Jenni Tranweaver, top right; Christine Ha, bottom left; and Kiran Verma, bottom right.

 For the first time ever during a Bank of America Women’s Leadership Series event, the menu was inspired by the speakers. Catered by Culinaire and overseen by Chef Barbara McKnight, the menu included soba noodle salad (inspired by Tranweaver), Tandoori-rubbed chicken breast (inspired by Verma), and chocolate chunk cookies and “Humble Pie” bites (inspired by Hà).

The audience had the opportunity to ask the speakers their own questions during the Q&A session. Many members of the audience were students from local universities (UHD and the Art Institute), as it is part of WLS’s mission to support and uplift the next generation of leaders.

 The Women’s Leadership Series (WLS) is chaired by Mandy Kao and Y. Ping Sun, and the programming focuses on women who are making a substantive impact in society and business. The series provides a platform for influential women of Asian descent, as well as women engaged in leading efforts reflected in the Asia Society mission, to share their personal and professional experiences.

 Besides Kao and Sun, other guests in attendance were Nancy Allen, Ginger Blanton, Lisa Barksdale, Alice Mao Brams, Anne Chao, Rose Chen, Monjula Chidambaram, Cathy Cleary, Julie Cogan, Rania Daniel, Kathy Gondo, Kathy & Marty Goossen, Lily Kooros, Anu Lal, Sultana Mangalji, Sonia Garza Monarchi, Kathy McGovern, Davana & David Petree, Shirley Quan, David Ruiz, Deborah Stavis, and among many others.

About Asia Society Texas Center:

With 13 locations throughout the world, Asia Society is the leading educational organization promoting mutual understanding and strengthening partnerships among the peoples, leaders, and institutions of Asia and the rest of the world. Asia Society Texas Center executes the global mission with a local focus, enriching and engaging the vast diversity of Houston through innovative, relevant programs in arts and culture, business and policy, education, and community outreach.

 Women’s Leadership Series at Asia Society is presented by Bank of America, with additional support from ExxonMobil, Nancy Pollok Guinee, Tiffany & Co., BP, Cathay Bank, Eagle Global Advisors, Vinson & Elkins LLP, Nancy C. Allen, Anne and Albert Chao, Brigitte Kalai, Mandy and William Kao, and others.