Rohini Dey, PhD, the founder and owner of Vermilion restaurant in Chicago and Let's Talk Womxn, has been named the MenuMasters Innovator of the year for 2022 for breaking new ground culinarily as well as for creating a national community of women operators during the pandemic. She will be honored at this year’s Nation’s Restaurant News MenuMasters gala, sponsored by Ventura Foods, at the Drake Hotel in Chicago on May 21.
The Innovator award identifies and recognizes an individual who has made a significant contribution and impact in the foodservice industry through their commitment to raise the standard for menu and concept innovation.
An economist and former academic and management consultant, Dey, left, opened Vermilion, called At Vermillion at the time, in 2004, and expanded it to New York City in 2008, although she closed that location a decade later.
Dey introduced her customers to her own style of Indian food, bringing in Latin influences and her distinctive flair. Vermilion’s current menu includes dishes such as tandoori skirt steak with garlic and spinach, greens in coconut milk with mustard seed, and artichoke pakoras, plus cocktails such as tamarind Margaritas, lychee Caipirinhas and mango Mojitos.
Vermilion has been recognized locally and nationally by Chicago Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, Travel & Leisure, Town & Country, USA Today, Bon Appétit, Wine Enthusiast and others. Dey has been profiled in numerous magazines as a leading entrepreneur as well as for her style as an entertainer .
Early in the pandemic, feeling isolated as so many people did at the time, Dey founded Let’s Talk Womxn, which brings together female independent restaurant operators to share concerns and best practices, collaborate and provide emotional support.
The network has now expanded to 13 cities.
She also established a culinary scholarship for women through the James Beard Foundation and founder her own non-profit organization, MSEdG — Educate Girls Globally, which receives all the proceeds from her writing.
“I’m so glad that we get to honor Rohini Dey as the MenuMasters Innovator this year,” said Nation’s Restaurant News senior food and beverage editor Bret Thorn. “I have always admired and enjoyed her food, and with Let’s Talk Womxn she has demonstrated the tremendous impact that a group of like-minded people can have when they work together.”
Previous MenuMasters Innovator Award recipients include chefs José Garces, Jonathon Sawyer, David Burke, Paul Kahan, David Barzelay Stephanie Izard and Sarah Grueneberg.
MenuMasters is an invitation-only event for foodservice executives. Follow #MenuMasters on social media to join the excitement, and get more information on the gala and how to attend at informaconnect.com/menumasters/.