Perspectives

From Travails to Triumph: A Woman NYC Chef Who Persisted Through Adversity


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In the early 1970s, Madeline Carvalho Lanciani traveled from suburban Dayton, Ohio to New York City as a young woman with dreams of being an opera singer.
After many twists and turns in life, she now owns the famous Duane Park Patisserie in the fashionable Tribeca District. She is famous for her baking, her creativity and for her tenacity.
March is National Women’s History Month and the theme this year is NEVERTHELESS SHE PERSISTED: Honoring Women Who Fight All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Madeline is truly a study in persistence and the embodiment of this theme.
Early in her New York life, singing jobs became scare. Besides having a day job, Madeline started baking at home to help pay her bills. She sold her goods in local Greenwich Village shops.
Soon, she decided to put singing on the shelf and instead, she followed her passion of baking and cooking full-time. She attended a local culinary school where she was the only woman student.
After graduation, when she had to look for a job she ran into the stone wall of sexual discrimination. No one in the NYC food industry would hire a woman.
However, Madeline’s tenacity and resilience persisted and she talked herself into a job at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. She worked free for five months to prove herself. When eventually hired, she was the only woman in the kitchen of 99 men. Her story there was one of travails and triumph.
After on-the-job hazing, abuse and discrimination in the kitchen, she persisted and rose to be the chef at one of the Plaza’s top restaurants.
She and her first husband then started their own bakery in Greenwich Village but the business outlasted the marriage. They got divorced and both remarried.
Madeline’s second marriage produced her two children but it was a tough marriage for her. In various ways, it was an emotionally destructive marriage for Madeline.
Eventually, she divorced her second husband and was essentially a broke single mom of a six year old and a three year old.
Undeterred, Madeline found an empty warehouse in the Tribeca District of the city. She borrowed money, renovated it and started her own Patisserie. Today, her shop is one of the top in all of New York City. She is known for her superior quality and creativity.
Madeline paved the way for women in her field while suffering multiple levels of abuse in the workplace and emotional turmoil at home. She is truly an example of persistence and grit.