Susan Wolfla made history by becoming Executive Chef of Mandalay Bay. Not because of her delicious recipes or artful plating, but because she’s a woman.
It’s hard to fathom, but Wolfla is the first female executive chef of a hotel on the Las Vegas Strip.
“It is a male dominated profession, it is. Even today it is,” says Wolfla.
And until now, the male-dominated culinary industry in Vegas never saw a female executive chef of a hotel.
In the past, there were many more men than women in culinary positions. Wolfla says during her internship at Caesars Palace 15 years ago, there was only one woman chef at the hotel. She adds the ratio of men to women in the culinary field is improving.
“I think it’s changing quite a bit. When I see graduates coming out of [culinary] school and folks that are applying, I see them in equal numbers,” says Wolfla.
This is Wolfla’s third time in Vegas. A native of Indiana, her résumé begins at the Canterbury Hotel in Indianapolis, Ind. and extends as far as the Bahamas, where she worked at the Atlantis Resort.
Wolfla has worked at Mandalay Bay as executive sous chef since 2005. Now as executive chef, Wolfla oversees all aspects of the resort’s dining program and has set out to please guests by offering preeminent restaurant-quality food at any catered event or location (including your hotel room) on the property.
“We want to be this amazing, cutting edge place where you can come and get a great meal at any of our restaurants and then get an equally great meal at any of our banquet functions.”
While food quality is a priority, Wolfla says her biggest challenge comes in attracting and retaining top talent at the resort. Wolfla oversees seven restaurants, in-room and employee dining and banquets—with a combined culinary team of more than 500 chefs and cooks.
“Because of the numbers that we do, it can be very hard to keep the right people. Once we get people that are great, everyone else wants them,” says Wolfla.
Wolfla notes that the culinary staff at Mandalay Bay now boasts five female chefs in prominent positions. Continuing to encourage women to explore culinary careers, Wolfla says:
“Think of yourself as a chef first, and don’t think of yourself as a woman chef.”