By June Naylor
Photos by Jeremy Enlow

What does it take to run a high-end steakhouse? Ask these women in charge.

The most masculine dining room we know is found inside the great American steakhouse, typically an elegant bastion of wood and leather where platter-size porterhouses and double martinis rule. While the clientele typically is male, at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, females rule the roost at all three North Texas locations, where as general managers they not only oversee daily operations, but serve as mom, sister and confidante to the staff. They took time out of their busy schedules to gather at the Uptown Dallas location, where they proceeded to order drinks and an amazing feast and to talk shop amongst themselves and with us. They confirmed what we suspected: If you want a tough job done right, put a cool woman in charge.

— June Naylor

GEMMA BRADY

Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, Fort Worth

Growing up in the United Kingdom, Brady traveled a lot with her family in the U.S. and Mexico, places her philosopher dad spent time. But it was in England that the restaurant bug bit her early on: “My mum ran a small catering company from home that I loved to help with. My first job was as a hostess at a London pub when I was 14.” Settling in Texas at 18, Brady began her hospitality career with Hilton hotels in Austin while searching for a job that would satisfy her yearning for work in food and wine. Brady, who still speaks with a lovely accent, landed at Del Frisco’s in 2013. “Dining here is an experience that elevates life — I love being a part of and orchestrating such incredible moments.” Seeing more women in jobs like hers has been a long time in coming, and she’s gratified that Del Frisco’s shook the male-heavy hiring trend some years ago. “Once women began to take these roles, we have seen amazing results that I believe come from a natural selflessness that women possess, making it easy to put the needs of their guests and team members first and keeping focused on the greater good of the restaurant.” The Grapevine-Colleyville-area resident commutes to Cowtown and says mothering four kids helps with that key skill known as juggling: “I have mastered the art of being able to balance emotional well-being with necessary daily operations.”

What to order at Del Frisco’s “While I obviously adore steak, I’m recently obsessed with our new daily seafood features. We are flying in fish from all over the world and really elevating the tastes and presentation of these amazing offerings.”

Favorite thing to eat away from work “I’m usually well fed at home, but we love to go out for Mexican, tapas and sushi.”

812 Main St., Fort Worth, 817-877-3999, delfriscos.com/steakhouse/fort-worth

ANN JOHNSON

Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, Plano

The road from her native, stoplight-free town of Roy, Oregon, to booming Plano passed through Galway (Ireland), Seattle, Denver and Washington, D.C., for this general manager. After pursuing premed studies, Johnson detoured to earn a business degree while working in fitness, golf and restaurant jobs. “I realized I could make a greater impact in hospitality, creating memorable experiences.” Joining Del Frisco’s restaurant group a decade ago, Johnson moved to the Plano steakhouse two years ago. Particularly rewarding, she says, is working for a company that puts women in a wide variety of top roles across the company. “We are fortunate that our CEOs have been supportive of women in leadership positions and promote from within.” The job’s demands are just her speed, too: “I’m energetic, and I love cultivating others’ business acumen and throwing a party every night.”

What to order at Del Frisco’s Filet mignon with Alaskan king crab truffle butter paired with the exquisite E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie.

Favorite thing to eat away from work “I love to cook on my days off. It’s always something seasonal and fresh from the garden, with a glass of wine included for educational purposes.”

5905 Legacy Drive, Plano, 972-312-9115, delfriscos.com/steakhouse/plano

GINA COOK

Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, Dallas

A native of San Antonio, Cook discovered the food-and-beverage world without really looking. “I fell into the business through a friend who owned a restaurant,” she says, “and fell in love with it immediately.” Having worked in the industry for two decades, she has been with Del Frisco’s for 14 years. It was never a struggle to find a comfort zone in the business, evident by her ever-present big smile and infectious laugh. She feels it’s only natural that women are taking on more significant roles as sommelier, executive chef and general manager: “I have been very lucky to have seen and worked with women in the industry my whole life, so it’s not ever been unusual for me to be in management or a GM.  I, fortunately, never came across any glass ceilings.” Beyond being in the right line of work, she feels she has found the employer that makes her excited to go to work each day. “I love this business. And when you’re doing what you love, you work from a different perspective. At Del Frisco’s, we are expected to run our business as if we were the CEO, so the ownership aspect is very high, and you get to ‘do right and fear no man,’ ” says Cook, who lives in Fort Worth.

What to order at Del Frisco’s The rib-eye with the añejo old-fashioned.

Favorite thing to eat away from work “Everything!”

2323 Olive St., Dallas, 972-490-9000, delfriscos.com/steakhouse/dallas