RENDER

feminist food + culture zine

Dine for Your Daughters

Julia Bainbridge

April 28 (today!) is Take Our Daughters to Work Day, and to celebrate, New York City vegetarian restaurant Dirt Candy will host its first ever Take Our Daughters to Dinner Day.

As chef-owner Amanda Cohen explains on the restaurant's website: “That night, any parent dining here with their daughter gets a four-course dinner for two and a drink for each person for only $80 (tip included): Hush Puppies and Shanghai Shoots, Carrot Sliders, Brussels Sprout Tacos for two, Corn Cake or Chocolate Onion Tart, one drink per diner (either alcoholic or non-), and we'll probably throw in a few other treats we're working on. A dad can bring his daughter, a mom can bring her daughter, or you can bring two daughters (each additional daughter is another $40).” Normally, an average check for two at Dirt Candy is $110-$120.

Dirt Candy’s new location at 86 Allen Street in New York City opened last winter

Dirt Candy’s new location at 86 Allen Street in New York City opened last winter

Cohen continues: “At the risk of sounding cheesy, this matters to me. When I was a kid, I look back at the time I spent with just my mom or just my dad as mattering so much. Sometimes it was irritating, and often I wouldn't talk, I'd just sort of sit there and sulk, but it mattered. To feel like I was the kid getting extra attention, to feel like they were actually interested in whatever scant information about my life they pried out of me, to sometimes just sit there and eat, or watch a movie… it didn't feel like much at the time. Looking back, it feels like the world.”

With the support of Gloria Steinem, the Ms. Foundation for Women’s Marie C. Wilson created Take Our Daughters To Work Day in 1992. The annual holiday, if you can call it that, was expanded to include boys in 2003, but as Cohen believes the working world still doesn’t provide equal opportunities for women, she’s keeping this day true to its original purpose. “We’ll do something for sons, too—I don’t want to be sexist—but this one is just for daughters,” she told us. Below, find more from our conversation with Cohen about the special day.

What motivated you to do this?

We’re always looking for things to do at the restaurant. My team and I were looking at the calendar, and none of the regular holidays were resonating. I want to be interested in what I’m doing, you know? I saw that it was Take Our Daughters to Work Day and immediately I was like, “Why don’t we ever do that?” It’s one night, and it’s something that I’ll have fun with and my customers will really have fun with. How do we not do it? Once we started thinking about it, it was a no-brainer.

How have reservations been going so far?

The response has been great. We have 110 reservations, so we’re booked for the night completely. I didn’t think that would happen, because I was like, “What mother and daughter team takes the 10:30 reservation?” But people have taken them, and I’ve gotten all these really nice emails from people saying they love the idea. It’s very emotional. And the message we wrote was real: You know, dinners with your parents are awkward, but they’re also really fun because you’re getting all their attention.

I have four siblings—I’m the youngest of five—and those moments when you had your parents alone were awesome. I was like, “Oh, I have Mom and Dad all to myself!” At the same time, I was like, “Ugh, what are they going to ask me?” and “I’m the special one!”

The long, L-shaped bar in the new restaurant space

The long, L-shaped bar in the new restaurant space

You said, “Looking back, it feels like the world,” of the time you spent alone with your parents. Can you expand on that a bit?

It feels special. It’s time you can’t get back. I own a restaurant because I love dinnertime; I love people sitting down and eating together. When you can do that with family, those are moments you can’t recreate. It sounds so hokey, but it is, you know? That’s the dinner table. Not even just having dinner alone with my parents, but the dinner table in general is a really special place to me. I have a big family, and when we would all get together, those moments were amazing. It was seven us when I was growing up, with my parents included, and now, when my brothers and sisters all bring their husbands and wives and I bring my husband and kids, it’s really special. It’s family: You hate each other, you love each other, you fight, but you’re all sitting down for dinner and you know you’re going to do it again, and it just feels so of a piece. It feels like, “Okay I’m whole again.” We’re all together.

Do you think your parents taking this time with you somehow led to your being a chef or to your strong work ethic?

My dad really worked hard, but he would make it home every night for dinner. We might not eat until 8 or 8:30—he worked in government, and came home much later than my friends’ fathers—but it was important to us to eat together. So it’s both of those things combined: You work hard and you make dinner. And all of sudden I’m a cook, so it kind of makes sense.

Amanda Cohen’s carrot sliders, which will appear on tonight's special menu

Amanda Cohen’s carrot sliders, which will appear on tonight's special menu

Do you think it’s particularly important for girls?

Yes. I think it’s important for kids in general to know what adults do, so it’s not surprising when they have to go to work. When they get involved and the see it in front of them, it makes more sense, and it’s clear that work is important and this is who you become in the world. But I still think we live in a world that’s not fair and equal. It’s still harder for girls. So this is a little push.

I mean, I work in an industry that’s still pretty sexist and supports male chefs more than it supports female chefs. I think we’re trying really hard—we’ve made so much progress in the last couple years—but I don’t think we live in an equal world yet. And there are little things that help us along the way. It’s important for girls to know that they can do anything boys can do. And I know we say that, but I’m not sure we always show it.

You know, one of the reasons I talk so much about female chefs and industry and the media supporting them is that I have a kitchen that’s filled with young girl chefs. I’m like, “How do I give them my industry if I’m not giving them a fair industry? How do I say, ‘Hey, you have just as fair a chance as the guy in the kitchen’?” I still don’t think they do. And these are the things that I think sort of make it a little bit more equal.

What do you hope people will take from it?

One: I hope people really do come with their daughters and they dine and they have a great time. Two: I hope they’ll like to eat vegetables a little bit more after this. Three: I own a restaurant, and I love owning a restaurant because I can do things like this. This is pretty easy, and you’ve giving back to the community. This might not be a night where I make a ton of money, but I’m not going to lose money, and how lovely that with this simple dinner we can do something nice. I hope other restaurants are like, “Yeah, I can do that, too!”

Dirt Candy's Brussels sprout tacos for two

Dirt Candy's Brussels sprout tacos for two

You don’t need a special menu to take your daughters and sons to dinner, of course. And you don’t even need to be a mother or father yourself. As the official website for the Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Foundation states, “Workplaces and individuals are encouraged to ensure all our nation’s daughters and sons participate in the program by inviting children from housing authorities and shelters, nieces and nephews, neighbors and friends, granddaughters and grandsons, and more.” And what better way to cap off that day of work with a little work-life balance, in the form of a delicious dinner?


Julia Bainbridge is a classically trained cook, editor, and writer. She’s also the host and creator of The Lonely Hour podcast. It’s about loneliness, but it’s not a total bummer.

Photos courtesy of Dirt Candy.