Written by Jade Ruston
It can be very confusing for a child when society is persistent on identifying you and containing you to just one accent, when in fact, your soul can have many. Growing up with a multicultural family, an African mother and a father from the middle east, being raised in a Jewish household in France, Ilanit grew up feeling displaced and mislabeled.
“I always had a kind of identity crisis since day one and when I arrived in Australia it even enhanced even more I would say because I realised there is so much difference between the way I have been raised and the way I grew up and the way people perceive me, which is my accent.”
Pending the search for the woman inside herself, 9 years ago this year, Ms Bard journeyed to Australia to begin working the hospitality scene and within 5 years, she flew from being a kitchen porter to being the General manager of one of the best restaurants in Australia, Lûmé, to now being the founder of SOiGNé, aiming to make sure a restaurant is profitable day to day, regarding company culture, training, events etc, as well as her Thick Accents movement which is splashing new bright colours all over the industry seeing migrant women express their own cultures cuisine from their personal prospective. The pop up has had a strong take off, already being noticed by Melbourne Food and Wine magazine and has big potential internationally in Europe next year.
“I’m good at what I’m doing because I’m hypervigilant. I was the caregiver for my caregiver since I was a child so all these things make me really good at hospitality. I can read people really easily when they want something” Ilanit told The Jolly Times.
“I’ve always been curious about other cultures, the way they grew up and what they eat so Thick Accents was born.”
What a guest can experience during a dinner hosted by the progressive pop up is a fully surrounded sensory experience, meaning you will be serinanded in traditional music, decoration, history and soul food of the country, so none of your korean bbq and kfc to see here folks. (Not that it’s not great food but there is so much more to a country’s cuisine than what we usually get to experience.) One chef Soumya from Lee of Hook hosted her own art exhibition alongside her dinner so that guests could simultaneously browse and purchase her artwork.
“It’s not too folklore, there’s no circus. This is the person and this is their experience of this place the best way she can communicate that to you”
“When it’s a culture that’s not mine like when we did the Indian dinner, I felt like it wasn’t my place to talk about it. It’s my pop up but it’s not my space to take, I really give the platform 100% to a woman of colour so she has the full potential to express herself inside but also outside of the kitchen”
So far, Thick Accents has hosted 3 successful dinners, with 3 more in the bag for when we can re-open. The first, setting a high standard for the rest to follow. Event number one to kick off was with the wildly exploritive Chef Lorena Corso who’s based at Napier Quarter, says she likes to have too much fun whilst she’s cooking so doing great events like this is what she loves best.
Ms bard said,
“I worked with her for a few days prior to see how we would get along before approaching her about the project,”
“Her personality is amazing. She is a really strong minded person and I love that. So after a couple of shifts with her I slid into her dms and conversed about the project to host on easter weekend”
“We didn’t sleep a lot. We cooked everything from her kitchen. We are both high achievers so we were really stressed out at some points but we had a lot of fun. Lorena was cooking outside on an open flame in the heat . I have huge respect for what she did. All of her plates were really incredible.”
Thick Accents has deeper intentions in the works. Within an industry that’s been described to be well known for its lack of equality balance between men and women, Ilanit describes that she’s felt like an “exception that confirmed the rules” in a previous managerial role, meaning that it was so strange and unique for people around her to have a woman at the head of a hospitality group that she experienced gaslighting and disrespect by not being able to feely make decisions, often having to consult with a man regardless of their position in the company hierarchy, which is a universally recognised experience.
Having had enough of these dominant situations, Ms Bard quit her position to venture onto new things one month before the lockdown. The lockdown has come with its favours, enabling full focus to be on planning the purest collection of rich cultural events from fine migrant women.
“I grew up in a really dysfunctional family, with a disabled mother, so for me keeping quiet was a coping mechanism. To keep me safe, keep me alive, I needed to not talk and so I was a really rebellious teenager but not at home. Only outside. I always loved writing, it’s my safe space. I was writing a lot about injustice especially with women and violence, and when I came to Australia I didn’t change a bit actually. I was still the same angry teenager inside who needed to express and to find space.”
“If you make a bit of a shit sauce you can add some things and make something good out of it. That’s what I did. I had a shitty childhood and I’m trying to accomplish some good from it.”
The intentions behind both SOiGNé and The Thick Accents Project you can see are pure. Caring for people is in her blood and in her nature, she has a resonating voice that is strong in the community and an unshakable resilience to make sure that equality reaches all corners, compressed voices get heard and expressed, and guests get to gather together for an intimate feast. She has exposed a gateway between workers and the world. If we had a wider ability to channel our experiences constructively and creatively like this, rather than lavishing in toxicity, we would all shorten that gap between how many smiles the average happy adult has a day, (40) to a child, (400), wow. Let’s go.
If you know someone that has inspired you in any way by doing something bright please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can celebrate them and spread smiles 🙂