Tea sommelier Cynthia Gold on Sunday was awarded the Golden Goblet Service Award by Women Chefs & Restaurateurs, one of several awards recognizing “Women Who Inspire.”
Gold developed the tea program at Boston Park Plaza’s Swan’s Cafe and is the author of Culinary Tea: More than 150 Recipes Steeped in Tradition From Around the World. She regularly teaches the culinary concepts of tea in Culinary Schools in the US and overseas as well as at numerous culinary conferences. The presentation was made at the WCR National Conference in Cambridge, Mass.
Annually the 2,000-member organization hosts a conference that consists of master cooking classes, keynote presenters, panel discussions, culinary tours, a trade show and awards banquet. Gold is the first tea professional to be recognized.
Executive Director Lieann O’Brien says the presentations are designed to inspire present and future generations of women in the culinary industry. In addition the award for beverage professionals, goblets recognize excellence in the dining room/front-of-house, kitchen, baking and pastry arts, beverage profession, community service and the making of artisanal products.
“I was so shocked to find out that I'm not even sure what I said when I got up there,” says Gold. “I had no idea that I had even been nominated.”
Gold says she couldn't be more thrilled to see an award that has previously gone only to professionals in the wine industry branch out to tea. “We still have a long way to go. Tea is a magnificent and flexible botanical which is still vastly under-appreciated, but we are on the way to fine teas receiving more of the respect they so richly deserve,” says Gold.
The recognition is a milestone for the tea industry. Gold was praised by a number of tea professionals. “You have been tireless in your efforts which are clearly driven by your passions ~ tea & cooking,” wrote SerendipiTEA founder Linda Villano. “I'm absolutely thrilled for you & thank you for all you have done & continue to do in order to elevate tea in so many arenas.”
Gold was a restaurant owner and chef when she began experimenting with culinary uses for tea.
“The pivotal point was my becoming inspired by tea as an ingredient. At that time, in 1997, I was one of the first people in the country cooking with tea, so it brought some people from the tea industry into my restaurant,” she described a meal she prepared to showcase tea cuisine in a 2010 Q&A on Examiner.com.
“Not only did I meet my mentor then, Helen Gustafson of Chez Panisse (who did not hold the title, but I consider the first ever Tea Sommelier), but I met an incredible number of other people who were very generous in sharing their knowledge with me.”
Soon after (in 1998) she visited a small tea farm in Hanzhou China where she harvested baskets of tea leaves and took them through their wither period and wok firing to produce Lung Ching, Dragonwell Green Tea.
“It was the most emotionally charged experience of my life, and it literally changed my life. It sounds very clichéd, but at that moment, tea became a part of my soul and I have never looked at it the same way again,” said Gold.
Other award recipients include:
• The Golden Bowl Award: Judy Mattera, chef/owner of Sweet Solutions.
• The Golden Plow Award: Kerry Leigh Heffernan, executive chef of Aidells Sausage Company in San Leandro, Calif.
• The Golden Whisk Award: Lydia Shire, owner of Scampo at The Liberty Hotel, Boston, and chef/co-owner of Locke-Ober.
Barbara Lynch, who owns the Beacon Hill restaurant Gruppo, received the Barbara Tropp President's Award. Director of Nutrition Services Ann Cooper, at the Boulder Valley School District in Colorado, received the Community Service Award and State University of New York Associate Professor of Culinary Arts JoAnne Cloughly was named Educator of the Year.
The mission of Women Chefs & Restaurateurs is to promote and enhance the education, advancement and connection of women in the culinary industry. Formed in 1993 by eight of the nation's top women chefs and restaurateurs, WCR offers a variety of networking, professional and support services.