New York Women's Culinary Alliance

Member Showcase:
Shari Bayer

By Francine Cohen

Interview a potential job applicant who tells you they've held every front and back of the house job in a restaurant, and you might be concerned that you're chatting with a Jack of all trades, Jill of none. That's not the case with our new Alliance President; in fact, it is precisely this kind of extensive experience that makes Shari Bayer such a perfect fit for her new role as the President of the New York Women's Culinary Alliance.

Bayer, the founder of a PR agency that specializes in culinary and hospitality PR and marketing, was bit by the culinary bug early. The south Florida native kicked off her hospitality career with a move to Chicago after graduating from the University of Michigan. There she quickly found a job in restaurants and a spot in culinary school which she attended with the intention of spending her restaurant time in the kitchen. But that was just the beginning and basis for her journey. With culinary school under her belt, Bayer came to the realization that while restaurants were her passion, slaving away in them wasn't the best way to connect. She comments, "It wasn't really a predictable path. I didn't set out to be a publicist. I graduated from the University of Michigan, moved to Chicago and worked in restaurants, holding every position."

But in the end, it wasn't an in-house restaurant career that lay ahead. Bayer reflects, "I went to culinary school thinking I wanted to be a chef. Eventually I decided I didn't want to work in restaurants but still wanted to incorporate culinary into my career. I started in publishing, and then landed at a PR firm that did restaurants; it was a good fit." It felt so good that Bayer decided to go out on her own. She notes, "Working for myself was always something I wanted to do. I always wanted to have my own business. Restaurant PR works for me."

Since that decision seven and a half years ago, Bayer has been working hard to make sure that her hospitality clients gain the public recognition they deserve. She spends her days writing press releases and pitching and attending meetings to discuss strategy and concepts. Schedules like this might fell someone less organized. And despite the fact that her job requires living a business life that has no set routine and can be full of surprises, Bayer embraces her chosen profession. She says, "I eat out a lot—half the time in my restaurants where the purpose of eating is to be familiar with the food, menu and service so that I can offer feedback to the restaurant and have a personal knowledge of the concept to introduce it to editors. The rest of my time is spent is eating at other restaurants and keeping up with the blogs and reading all types of media. I think it's important to be knowledgeable about what's going on in the industry."

She continues to explain why all this hands on research is important, "It gives me more credibility. And there's a lot to keep up with. It changes hourly." Excited about her new appointment as President of the NYWCA, Bayer has been focused on collaborating with her new executive board as they shepherd the Alliance into its next phase of growth. She comments, "The Alliance has writers and publicists and food stylists and more, it's not a group with only one category, so we can all support each other. And, ultimately, success in this business is all about the people you know. I've always liked the Alliance because it's a good resource for networking."

In addition to bolstering the networking capabilities of the Alliance's members through engaging programming that draws women from all of the culinary fields, Bayer intends to raise the group's profile. She remarks, "We've been working on a strategic plan that identifies how to get more exposure while providing members with what they want. We're further defining the structure of the organization; from the size of the organization and the size of the board and the number of programs on the calendar and the kind of programs. It's a big challenge running an organization that is volunteer based so we have to see where we're going as we're taking a look at why people are members and what they want."

What Bayer wants for all members is the same thing she has – a strong network of committed people around her who are passionate about the culinary field. She concludes, "Whether members are simply looking for something for their resume, want to be part of a women's group, need networking, desire programs, or enjoy the education, they should get involved. There are so many ways to get involved – helping with check-in, greeting people, writing up an event, or creating an idea for programming that benefits you and other people. The more you get involved the more you get out of it."

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