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March 22, 2018
Stephanie Gray – The Women of West Chester
Stephanie Gray – Chef & Owner of Kildare’s Irish Pub
Years in business: Twenty-three Owner of Kildare’s
As a kid, Stephanie Gray would “cook” with Julia Child, emulating every move she made on TV. “I was just fascinated watching Julia cook,” she says. “I wanted to have that confidence, that ease.”
Stephanie’s love for cooking never ebbed. She stopped undergraduate studies, got a job as a cook, and learned everything she could. She was accepted into the Culinary Institute of America and graduated at the top of her class. That led to working for Georges Perrier, then at some of Philadelphia’s top restaurants.
As the new chef/owner at Kildare’s Irish Pub in West Chester, Stephanie’s on a mission to create great food and inspire other women to become confident leaders. “You have to work hard and make sacrifices if you want to stand out,” she says. “But you can do it.”
For Stephanie, working hard meant competing to excel in a male-dominated profession. “When I went to culinary school, there were four or five women in my class of 20,” she says. “It was a motivator that pushed me tremendously. You want to stand out; you want to be better.”
"You have to work hard and make sacrifices if you want to stand out."
Purchasing Kildare’s in 2015 with her husband Dane, and reinventing the downtown West Chester Irish Pub staple was the culmination of that hard work. The couple revamped the menu, added a strong selection of craft beers, and more than 100 whiskeys. But the emphasis is on the food. “We make things from scratch, focusing on fresh ingredients that deliver great flavor without being complicated,” she says.
Running the pub also has allowed them to raise their children with a strong work ethic. “Our kids see our hard work, but know we never miss a beat with them,” she says. “I hope it’s something that stays with them throughout their lives.”
Their parents’ belief in giving back to the community will stay with the children, too. Stephanie and Dane have immersed themselves in the community, sponsoring sports teams, a soccer field, and contributing to many local charities.
As a woman business owner in West Chester, Stephanie is impressed by the number of women-led businesses in the borough. “There are a lot of smart, successful women business owners in town now,” she says. “We’re all doing the same thing: Making our own rules and watching how well it can pay off, both personally and professionally.”