[Editor’s Note: Bree DeLano was one of the initial inspirations behind Vegas/Rated’s December 2014 Women in Nightlife feature. We loved the concept so much, Women in Power is now a monthly web exclusive, authored by DeLano and celebrating ladies who are making an impact in the city of Las Vegas.]
I’ve met some incredibly interesting and talented women in the 10 years I’ve lived in Las Vegas, some of whom have impacted my own career [in music] in an amazing way. Through Vegas/Rated’s monthly Women in Power series, I will introduce trailblazers that exude confidence, passion, intelligence and relentless hustle, and who all live in a city that has often been deemed a “boys’ club.” These are women to draw inspiration from, have a drink with and listen to their stories. They come from diverse industries and backgrounds; they vary in age and personal style, but the common denominator is passion and drive. These are women who are changing the game and playing by their own rules.
Hailing from New Orleans, Jolene Mannina, over a five-year period of time, has been a lead server at one of the best steakhouses in the city, a trailblazer in the food-truck industry, the head of culinary for the Life Is Beautiful festival and recently started her own event and culinary experience company appropriately called Relish.
I worked just as hard as the boys and made my way.
Mannina, like her hometown, is fearless and incredibly unique. Unique because of her stunning features, but more importantly because she is 100 percent real—no smoke and mirrors, no games, no bullshit. Those who come across the 37-year-old naturally gravitate to her because of her larger-than-life personality, infectious laugh and tenacious work ethic.
After being deemed the “Queen of the Food Truck Scene,” Mannina sold her beloved Sloppi Jo’s truck and created a concept to “feed the service industry great food after work.” It became a down-and-dirty competition featuring some of the best chefs in the city, which she named The Back of the House Brawl. At 1 a.m. on Saturday nights in the parking lot of popular dive bar Tommy Rockers, chefs from restaurants such as Guy Savoy, Joel Robuchon, Comme Ça, N9NE Steakhouse, Blue Ribbon, Marché Bacchus and STK are challenged to come up with their best creation on a food truck completely foreign to them.
In the same vein as Chopped, the chefs had to compete using only ingredients in a designated basket that was on each truck. It garnered a cult following and was one hell of a parking lot party. FYI Network developed a series called Late Night Chef Fight based on her concept for Back of the House Brawl.
After 15 years in Las Vegas, Mannina’s star is on the rise and she has become a force in the food and beverage industry. Although she will be the first one to tell you she “does not know how to relax,” don’t let this workaholic fool you: She can teach us all a thing or two on how to work hard and play hard. She is the girl you want to hang out with as much as the businesswoman you can’t help but respect and admire. –Bree DeLano
What projects are you currently working on?
Relish is an event management company that provides culinary consultation, food truck placement, and large- and small-scale event production. Naked Relish, which I launched with Naked City Pizza chef Chris Palmieri, is a catering company for film and television, which also houses back-of-the-house support for events. My latest venture is called SmartBox Structures, which provides temporary modular boxes, a structural product defined by its contents that are used for everything from festivals to functioning restaurants. I teamed up with two partners, Josh Sieck and Charlene Ewanchuk.
What are your three favorite words?
Heard. Tequila. What?
What were your first few jobs when you moved to Vegas?
I moved to Vegas to open Commander’s Palace from New Orleans and then I worked at N9NE Steakhouse at Palms for 10 years.
What made you decide to buy a food truck?
I wanted my own restaurant and opening a food truck seemed like the perfect stepping stone at the time, so I left N9NE Steakhouse and started Sloppi Jo’s, which featured New Mexico Hatch chiles.
What challenges have you endured being a woman in your industry?
I never really experienced the struggles in my industry that other women have to had to endure in theirs. … I may have been singled out in the food-truck world at the beginning, but I worked just as hard as the boys and made my way.
What are you most proud of in your career thus far?
I created an event for my friends and colleagues that showcased culinary talent in Vegas as a passion project and it became a TV show.
What is your favorite cliché and why?
Bring home the bacon … probably because every day is a hustle and hustling makes me hungry, and I love bacon.
What is your passion outside of your career?
Nature and traveling. I like to be exposed to new things.
What is your guilty pleasure?
What is your current music playlist for work or play?
The Black Keys station on Pandora.
What does true love mean to you?
Understanding. Fun. Partnership.
What or who have inspired your hustle and why?
My grandparents are such an inspiration and a huge part of who I am personally and professionally. My grandmother threw the best parties; she was an amazing cook and artist. She was such a hard worker. My grandfather started a business based on my grandmother’s talents. They were both so hospitable and both loved helping those in need.
What scares you the most?
Not understanding how to relax.
What centers you?
The man in my life. New Orleans. A great gin martini.