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Women’s History Month Partner Spotlight: Jodi Battaglia

Jodi Battaglia started Curate in 2021, leveraging a decade of hospitality experience to form her own venture focused on creating and consulting on unique culinary experiences throughout Western New York (WNY). Curate has collaborated with Delaware North’s Patina 250 on eight Guest Chef series, including “Pastry Reimagined” featuring Guest Chef Jenn Batt. The Guest Chef series puts a spotlight on passionate chefs, local purveyors and a range of cuisine, including plant based, Ethiopian and Polish.

What inspired you to start Curate?
I was inspired by watching chefs and restaurateurs navigate the unforeseen challenges of COVID-19. There’s no denying the pandemic was incredibly difficult for many people. However, innovation was a byproduct – especially in food and hospitality. I watched chefs pivot on a dime and completely change their business models to suit the circumstances, which for many meant becoming private chefs. I was surprised to see them stop only a few months later, especially after how much they enjoyed their new path. Although these intimate high-touch experiences brought them joy and better margins, it was becoming difficult for the chefs to balance all the other details involved. I recognized an opportunity to harness my experience –working with chefs and hospitality companies to build brands and concepts to handle the details and empower chefs to do what they loved.

How did your previous professional experiences help you in starting your own business?
There’s still a lot to learn. There is no doubt that my time at Delaware North, where I focused on business, brands and concepts development, provided the foundation and gave me the confidence to start a business. I leveraged my experience with creating brands to define my own, thinking of every detail and touchpoint. My time working with brand partners and operations teams helped me understand operational challenges and translate them into processes and systems that would create efficiency and ease. And applying Delaware North’s customer-centric mindset and strategic planning skills have helped me organize my thoughts to create (and continuously refine) a product that solves a problem for chefs and party hosts!

What do you love most about the WNY food scene?
The people. Having explored various food scenes across the nation, I’ve found WNY’s culinary community to be exceptionally welcoming, supportive and entrepreneurial. As I got to know more people, I began to recognize a fearlessness in many of them. They weren’t afraid to take a risk even if it didn’t always work out the way they planned. When I started to take my own leap, it was nice to have the support of a collaborative culinary community behind me. That’s not to say there isn’t healthy competition among peers, but there is genuine excitement when others do well, and it fuels the people around them to do more. We are all seeing the benefits as local culinarians continue to raise the bar, expanding cuisine types and dining experiences across WNY. 

What has been the most rewarding part of working with Patina 250 on the Guest Chef Series?
Although the series is rooted in community collaboration, the most rewarding part of working with Patina 250 on the Guest Chef Series has been collaborating new chefs, many of them female, on a fine-dining stage who otherwise may not have had that opportunity. It’s refreshing and empowering, given the underrepresentation of #shefs in our industry. While there are numerous factors contributing to disparity, I genuinely appreciate the chance to highlight the women who are making significant contributions to food.

And the chance to see some familiar faces along the way sure has been a nice bonus!

How does your work serve as a catalyst for equality and inclusion?
In the Curate chef portfolio and Guest Chef series with Patina 250, we give all types of chefs the opportunity to share their talents and stories. We challenge ourselves to find different chefs, whether it’s cuisine type, experience level, personality – so there is something for everyone. 

A former guest chef, Zelalem Gemmeda, an Ethiopian chef, mother of two and full-time restaurateur, comes to mind. The series provided her the platform to showcase authentic Ethiopian cuisine on a fine dining stage – something she aspires to do herself someday. In the process, she enlightened the Patina 250 team about her culture, ingredients and techniques, and they were able to share their knowledge with her on elevated plating and presentation. During the event people were eating with their hands, tasting new flavors and even experienced a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony served in a sini (coffee cup) and poured from a jebena (carafe). We try to achieve that same immersive experience with our private dining chefs, creating experiences that allow our culinary talent to connect with guests and be their authentic selves. 

What advice do you have for women looking to take the next step in their careers?
If you don’t have the means to take a risk just yet, find a mentor who can be a sounding board while you put the pieces in place for that next step. I never knew the power of mentorship until I was on my own and seeking feedback. I have relied heavily on a few trusted voices as I take each next step and admire my mentors and role models for being fearless – yet thoughtful – in their decisions.

I’ve been working to adopt more of a fearless mindset that I’ve channeled from being a part of the WNY entrepreneurial community. I used to feel paralyzed by wanting everything to be perfect before taking the next step. I am learning that I’m not alone in that mindset, and many women struggle with a similar paralyzing perfectionism. I’ve seen the most growth in myself when I have taken risks. If you know in your heart of hearts it’s the right move or that the next step that will allow you to grow, be fearless and take the risk … you’ll figure it out.