Excerpt from Queen Bees, Rhode Island Monthly, November 2019 Issue
by Jamie Coelho, Photography by Tony Luong
KAITLYN ROBERTS, ASHLEY VANASSE AND DANIELLE VARGA OF EASY ENTERTAINING
There's been a baby boom at Easy Entertaining. The catering company and cafe run by women on Valley Street in Providence didn't expect all the babies to arrive at once but that's what happened.
Like most things in life, you can't plan perfect timing. Executive pastry chef and Johnson and Wales graduate Danielle Varga (wife of executive chef Matthew Varga of Gracie's) had a baby boy, Owen, in February and owner Kaitlyn Roberts welcomed twins that same month.
"Danielle and I had our babies five days apart," says Roberts with a laugh. Her twins, Myles and Madelyn are now eight months old.
"You guys played tag," says Easy Entertaining's executive chef Ashley Vanasse with a smile. Vanasse is also a JWU grad, who went to culinary school after earning a degree in political science from another school, and realizing what she really wanted to do was cook.
The three women are sitting at a table inside the Cafe at Easy Entertaining after normal business hours. The mothers are talking about feeding their babies solids and how making dinner at home is now like "renegade cooking" with a screaming infant providing a different sort of pressure to get food on the table. Vanasse also has a one-year-old son, Domenic, and a three-and-a-half-year-old girl, Sophia, so she plays the "been-there-done-that" counterpart.
"I am like a goalie," says Vanasse. "I have to deflect them off the oven at this point. 'Don't touch the oven. It's hot! Get away.' "
Roberts's Easy Entertaining has thirty employees with 80 percent female senior leadership, though the staff is equally divided. On this day, three men circulate the room chipping in wherever help is needed, taking guest orders and sweeping floors.
Roberts is changing the social norms of the culinary industry, which is known for long hours and stressful working conditions. "We wanted to be our own community," Roberts says. "When you start doing that and making the environment more comfortable for women, then you start getting more women."