Jess Murphy of Kai in Galway is a leader in Irish food, as well the equality movement in Ireland. Having recently attended the 2019 Parabere Forum, a global gastronomy symposium that aims to empower women in the food and drinks industries, Jess tells us about her role as Irish ambassador.

A staunch supporter of equal rights for chefs around Ireland, New Zealand-born Jess prominently supports other women in the food industry. Her Instagram is littered with images highlighting the amazing work that’s being done by Irish women so she was a natural choice for the role of Parabere ambassador in Ireland.

Parabere is a gastronomy symposium that specifically highlights women in food: According to its website, Parabere “is an independent international platform featuring women’s views and voices on major food issues. It is committed to improving the state of gastronomy, food, nutrition and agriculture by engaging leaders in various fields, from business and academia to politics and social issues. Deploying women’s experience and expertise across all generations and geographies, it offers practical discussions on how to overcome barriers and create new horizons and opportunities, both locally and globally, as well as in-depth and innovative debate on important ideas. Parabere also promotes the advancement of women worldwide via business and social networks.”

Parabere Forum took place in Oslo, Norway on March 3rd and 4th. To find out more about what happened, we spoke to Jess about the symposium.

What were the highlights of this year’s Parabere Forum?

“There were a few highlights for me. Kylie Kwong was absolutely amazing, so open and honest about her life and where’s shes going with her business, her dreams and what she wants for herself in the future. Her talk was all about trying to get that work-life balance. Janine Kennedy, chef, food writer and teacher at The School of Food, was another major highlight. The Irish really nailed it this year; Colin Harmon from 3FE was another major highlight, he did a talk called ‘Toxic Masculinity and Me’, which was super interesting to hear. Alice Waters was there too to accept the inaugural Parabere Care Award. There was just so many amazing women there, like Dominique Crenn who is an absolute superstar.”

Tell us more about your role with Parabere.

“My role for the last five years has been as the Irish correspondent. I help to find the people who speak at Parabere, like I recommended Colin and Janine because I knew they needed a platform to talk. I’ve actually hired someone from Janine’s school in Tipperary, she’s really turning out superstars and people need to know about it, but people never write about her!

They pitched their talks to me and I wanted to hear more about their day-to-day work and influences. There was also lots of workshops, including some about raw milk cheeses, smoking fish, butter-making and more. There’s a huge educational aspect to Parabere.”

How important are Parabere’s values to you?

“It’s important that we know that there should never be an all-male panel judging restaurants. A group has to have a dynamic and sometimes you find that a lot of women aren’t comfortable to talk if they’re the only woman at the table. Parabere is pushing women out there to talk more about all the amazing things they do.

It happens all the time in Ireland that people focus more on male chefs than the women that are doing fantastic things. There’s a new generation coming and their work is cut out for them because, due to the way society is, women just aren’t as confident. We are different and that’s okay. I’m a bit shy and it’s hard to put myself out there, but I do it because I have to. By empowering women together, we can help become more confident.”

What does Parabere mean to you?

“For me, Parabere is so important for younger women to network. They need to have the platform to connect with other women and talk out their ideas. I’m starting a refugee project soon where I’ll go with the Irish Refugee Agency to camps in Beirut and Jordan to help relocate a family to Ireland. For this project, I’ve now made lots of contacts with other women that have dealt with refugee families in Norway, which is so great to have. It was great to be abe to learn more from them about the whole process.

Parabere stands for empowering women, it tells us that we’re not alone and there are women available to help. It’s not fifty-fifty in our industry so it’s important to work together to get there.”

To find out more about Parabere, click here.

Click here to see more from Jess and Kai in Galway.