Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Sign in to follow this  
rconnelly

gender & pastry chefs

Recommended Posts

I'm doing research on pastry chefs in Tucson for an local article.

Seem the majority in town are female.

Does this hold true across the country?

Is so, why?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In NY, the majority are men.....at least the restaurants I can think of off hand....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not to split hairs, but do we care if its bakers v. pastry chefs? Maybe its a difference only in my mind, but if there truly is a distinction, my experience suggests there are more women bakers, but more male pastry.

(I'm hoping I'm not about to get butter bricks thrown at me...no offense is intended)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

About 60% of Baking & Pastry students at the CIA are women. My guess is that the women tend to lean more towards opening bakeries and pastry shops of their own, while the men prefer the atmosphere of the kitchen. We had a few women from my Culinary Arts group transfer to Baking & Pastry because they physically couldn't handle the demands of service, whether they weren't fast enough or not strong enough or not coordinated enough. Men are generally more suited for demanding physical environments, and if you don't think so or are offended, compare women's athletics to mens. It's fact. I think it's the same when deciding whether to go into a high-stress, time based kitchen environment vs. opening a bakeshop.


Edited by WiscoNole (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have nothing to contribute about pastrychefdom in the restaurant world. Many women can work the line like guys,I understand. And , many men prefer the "cool and calm" of pastry.

I suspect that women pastry chefs were turned on to baking cupcakes and brownies when they were under ten years old, while their brothers were obsessed with balls: big, small, hard soft and ovoid. What's bred in the bone ...


Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think personality traits, and to some degree, gender, enter into the equation about which side of the kitchen you end up on.

Personally I don't think I'm a pastry chef because I'm a woman, I'm a pastry chef because:

*I don't do well in high pressure, fast paced, stressful, hot environments (the more I sweat, the less I am able to think clearly. :raz: It's true. I've never been athletic, I can tell you that!)

*I'm an anal-retentive, artistic perfectionist.

*I love the "science" of baking (born a nerd).

*Sweet flavor profiles and combining them come easier to me than coming up with complementary flavors on the savory side. Ask my parents about the turkey soup I made them once. It had tarragon in it and it was AWFUL. :wacko: )

*Slappin' dough around is FUN!

*I'm a "linear" thinker. The precision, organizational and time management skills it takes to be a good pastry chef are in line with the way my mind works. The chaos of the hot side makes me crazy.

I went to school both for pastry and for culinary arts. I took the culinary arts course after I finished the pastry course. It didn't take long for me to realize that although the culinary arts side rounded out my food knowledge, it was something I probably would never pursue in the work world. I always admire the "hot siders", because they can do something that is nearly impossible for me. My hat is off to them! I'm not worthy! :laugh:

I think that either gender possess the traits similar to mine that would make them better pastry chefs, but I think statistically perhaps more women share the traits that I referenced above.


Edited by chefpeon (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you do a search in the Pastry and Baking Forum, you'll find past discussions of this exact topic...albeit a bit less civilized.

Historically, men occupied both sides of the kitchen because, well...women didn't work outside the home. So, all the great pastry chefs and savory chefs were men. But, behind every great chef or pastry chef is a very talented group of women at home :wink: .

Now, with the playing field a little more balanced, it seems that women tend to enter into pastry because of perceived difficulties in maneuvering the hot line. I've worked in many places with equal gender representation on the line and among chefs both pastry and savory.

I do find that like Tiny mentioned, in some of the bigger cities like New York, Chicago and LA, you'll find more male pastry chefs than female. I think, and don't take this the wrong way, that some of the more experimental cooking methods (think molecular gastronomy) tend to attract men. Therefore (and there's no research to back this claim) cities like San Francisco that haven't grabbed on to the molecular gastronomy locomotive tend to have more female pastry chefs. I don't know if it is a personality thing where women like to make more sensual/comforting desserts and men like to experiment with beakers and cool equipment. I know there are exceptions to every rule...so please don't start coming up with a list of men who make comfort desserts and women who make experimental style desserts...I'm not making a judgement either way.

I'm at work so I'll add more later...but those are my thoughts for now :smile:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
About 60% of Baking & Pastry students at the CIA are women.  My guess is that the women tend to lean more towards opening bakeries and pastry shops of their own, while the men prefer the atmosphere of the kitchen.  We had a few women from my Culinary Arts group transfer to Baking & Pastry because they physically couldn't handle the demands of service, whether they weren't fast enough or not strong enough or not coordinated enough.  Men are generally more suited for demanding physical environments, and if you don't think so or are offended, compare women's athletics to mens.  It's fact.  I think it's the same when deciding whether to go into a high-stress, time based kitchen environment vs. opening a bakeshop.

The reverse is also true, if we're going to skip right into stereotype land. One of my best friends is a kick-ass line cook but he can't even make chocolate chip cookies. He has no patience, doesn't like to follow detailed instructions, and is constantly trying to take things out of the oven before they're done!


"An appetite for destruction, but I scrape the plate."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
About 60% of Baking & Pastry students at the CIA are women.  My guess is that the women tend to lean more towards opening bakeries and pastry shops of their own, while the men prefer the atmosphere of the kitchen.  We had a few women from my Culinary Arts group transfer to Baking & Pastry because they physically couldn't handle the demands of service, whether they weren't fast enough or not strong enough or not coordinated enough.  Men are generally more suited for demanding physical environments, and if you don't think so or are offended, compare women's athletics to mens.  It's fact.  I think it's the same when deciding whether to go into a high-stress, time based kitchen environment vs. opening a bakeshop.

Right, because baking is never stressful, hard work, or has deadlines. I think that there is a perception that pastry is easier, but if you think a good pastry chef doesn't work their ass off, you are wrong. Yeah, if someone sucks on the line, they get sent to pastry, where they generally suck too, only they are not in the sous chef's way, and isn't that what matters? If you're slow, you're slow, it doesn't matter if you're on the line and your entree is not up with the rest of them or whether you're taking an hour to scoop a batch of cookies that should have taken 15 minutes, it's not really more excusable in pastry, at least not to me.

I think pastry is more likely (than the hot line) to attract the bored housewife type who makes great chocolate chip cookies and thinks it would be fun to be a baker/pastry chef but doesn't really 'get' the commitment needed. They don't always last long, and sort of water down the number of serious pastry chef who are women. And, like a friend from college once said, little boys growing up say 'I want to be a doctor/fireman/police officer', not 'I want to be a pastry chef', so a guy has to be much more serious about it (maybe that is whythey are all in NY), whereas wanting to cook or bake is much more acceptable for girls , even encouraged from a very young age.

I had this extern who told me that he was thinking about studying computer science but pastry school seemed easier, less homework (he should not have told me that). He said he failed cake class, and I believed it. You don't get to just sit around and eat cake all day, you have to make some of it too!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Right, because baking is never stressful, hard work, or has deadlines. I think that there is a perception that pastry is easier, but if you think a good pastry chef doesn't work their ass off, you are wrong.

After a 14 hour day at work today, I will say "damn right we work our asses off!" :wacko:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Right, because baking is never stressful, hard work, or has deadlines. I think that there is a perception that pastry is easier, but if you think a good pastry chef doesn't work their ass off, you are wrong.

After a 14 hour day at work today, I will say "damn right we work our asses off!" :wacko:

Maybe we need to get better at stereotyping savory cooks as alcoholic, dyslexic jocks who can't measure. :raz: Ahh, but I guess that doesn't accomplish any more than the FOH/BOH rivalry. But ust 'cuz they roll in at 2pm and don't see the first 8 hours of our day, doesn't mean it was all accomplished by magic elves.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Serious pastry work has my highest respect. I (and most people on this planet) could never repeat it, whereas most people are comfortable sauteeing a steak.

Perhaps the hours are somewhat more compatible with a normal human life and that is what attracts women?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Perhaps the hours are somewhat more compatible with a normal human life and that is what attracts women?

Along the same lines, Tom Colicchio says:

Women are reluctant to enter the culinary world because they believe (and this is not unjustified) that a cooking career is incompatible with raising children. . .The bottom line is our society does not yet provide women in the workplace with the type of social supports, like high-quality subsidized child care or extended parental leave, that allows them to fully go for it, and the impact this has on the scope and depth of a career is profound.

I think generally speaking, though still working long hours, P&B does give a person slightly more "normal" life. You start working earlier, but you can also get home earlier--just in time to get dinner on the table for the family, help with homework, etc.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think generally speaking, though still working long hours, P&B does give a person slightly more "normal" life.  You start working earlier, but you can also get home earlier--just in time to get dinner on the table for the family, help with homework, etc.

That really depends on what type of baking you're doing. Restaurant work isn't "normal" by any stretch of the imagination. Baking could be more "normal" but usually includes extremely early hours (if not graveyard type shifts). You'd definitely have to be the boss in order to end up with a decent schedule!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

i am not qualified from a statistical standpoint, but in America, there seems to be more total women involved in the pastry community.

the bread baking community seems to be somewhat dominated by males, for seemingly obvious reasons...heavy bags of flour

in France this is much different, with both professions being dominated by very very talented men

in the end i value diversity above all; once one experiences a diverse workforce that is well managed, it's hard to deny the advantage

the CIA classes in Greystone were like 90% female...consistently...go figure...it's all dough in their pockets at any rate

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

While I do agree that men physiologically and in theory are more suited to physically demanding jobs, I don't believe it follows that women are not suited at all. I'm not going to say what I think of the perception and how it might possibly hinder the advancement of women in the first place, but take into consideration that other more physically demanding jobs, such as emergency room doctors and the military that are well-populated by women (not to say that they make up 50%, but they're not invisible either). In my country, obstetricians are among the most overworked doctors, and thirty years ago were mostly men, but now are mostly (say 99.5%) women. Their work hours are staggering.

I believe there are other factors at work. Most quitting is precipitated by a disconnect between expectations and reality. Perhaps it's just a lack of preparation, or maybe those who quit feel that the work of cooking has sucked out the joy of cooking? I'm not familiar with the restaurant world at all besides what I read here-- maybe they were turned off by hazing? A "fraternity"/boys' club tradition? Harrassment?

From what I see on the internet and in magazines, outside the United States most pastry chefs are still male.

(Rereading my post I realize it has little to do with the original question. D'oh! I apologize. I do think the US is at the forefront of women in the pastry world, but I don't know if they make up the majority in most places. I imagine there aren't that many places anyway?)


Edited by jumanggy (log)

Mark

The Gastronomer's Bookshelf - Collaborative book reviews about food and food culture. Submit a review today! :)

No Special Effects - my reader-friendly blog about food and life.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I used to work at Jean Georges in NYC in pastry. I would work on average 14 hrs a day, I didn't get in till 1 or 2 in the morning. The hot side cooks worked 8-10 hours max....so pastry doesn't always have these awesome hours and short days.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I sort of disagree about the "normal hours". For most of my career, impossibly early mornings, graveyards and swing have been the norm. Not only that, but an 8 hour day is a "short" day.

When you go to work at 2 am, you need to be in bed pretty darn early, and that isn't really "family friendly" or if you want any social life, you can kiss that goodbye too. Same applies for graveyard.

I'd say swing is probably the best if you can't get 9-5 in regard to family life, but again, it's not so great for a social life if you're single.

I've been doing pastry 18 years. I've had two 9-5 jobs in all that time, and both times I've been in management. This time is one of those times. I'm the lead pastry chef for a wholesale bakery and retail cafe, so I get to FINALLY enjoy going in at 9 am. However, when I leave is a crapshoot.....I'm lucky if I get out of there by 7pm.......that's a "normal" day.

The 8 hour day still escapes me......... :wacko:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Eight hour days? I've heard rumors of those. Of course I'm not a pastry chef. I'm cook/pastry cook/baker/catering cook all rolled into one bleary-eyed mess. Sort of the "master of none" thing I guess. I currently do five 14 hour days, one 16 hour day and one day that varies depending on if there's any catering going on. I don't think working those hours has anything to do with gender though. Male or female, it's not can or can't... just will or won't.

I'm not female or in New York but if I was going to decide on a single direction to go as the thing I do it would almost definitely be towards pastry.


It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You're right.....the hour thing was sort of off-topic, but I guess I was just trying to say that I don't think it's the hours that attract women to pastry. Whether you're savory or pastry, man or woman, the hours suck, whether it's the shift or the sheer number of them.

From what I've learned about differences in gender, based on what I've observed about male and female co-workers, and also having been married to two different men, I've kind of come to the conclusion that in general, (and I know generalizing can be dangerous), men are more "big picture people" and women tend to be detail people. Of course there are exceptions to every rule! But this is the general tendency that I've come across.

I'm not saying savory isn't detailed, but when you look at baking as compared to cooking, the science of baking depends on minute details. One detail missing (like, for instance, baking powder) and you're in big trouble. There is also a lot of patience and planning ahead involved in pastry, and I think these facets of it come JUST a bit easier to women.

On a personal note, I'm much more comfortable with the pace of pastry. I'm not saying SLOWER pace, I'm saying the WAY it's paced. Not a lot of things in pastry are a la minute like they are on the line. You can't whip out a cake in just a few minutes like you can serve up a lot of hot entrees in less than the time it takes just to bake a cake. I don't like the "everything all at once" part of savory, and that's one of the reasons I'm not in it. :smile:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
You're right.....the hour thing was sort of off-topic, but I guess I was just trying to say that I don't think it's the hours that attract women to pastry. Whether you're savory or pastry, man or woman, the hours suck, whether it's the shift or the sheer number of them.

Yeah, I didn't word that well. I was actually agreeing with what you said.

I'm a picky, do-it-right-or-get-out-of-my-way person who loves order, numbers and precision. I enjoy cooking as a science and reasons for doing it this way and not that way. I don't think that sort of stuff interferes with creativity in the least. Plus, there's just something about the sweet side that's slightly more fun to me... which is weird because I very rarely eat sweets.


It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

where i worked, after the hot line, baking...specifically baking was probably the next hardest job.... lugging heavy dough around, 55 pound flour sacks.... a full service of sticking your entire upper body into the narrow 350 celsius stone oven to make focaccia.

they generally only had the guys do baking... most of the girls couldn't handle it...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One does hate to be a curmudgeon but there is a clear historical reason why women tend to be pastry chefs.

Until the days of the French revolution there were taverns and auberges but no restaurants as we know the today, most of the fine cookery taking place in the homes of royalty, the landed gentry and the weatlthy. Informally from the time of Lucullus (ancient Rome) and certainly formally starting in the Middle-Ages, men were responsible for forming the guilds of chefs and, in order tn to protect theiir perceived "turf" those guilds were closed to women. The slot that was left open in kitchens that required the, were as either personal cooks for the household (cooks as opposed to chefs) or as pastry chefs.

With no apologies on my part (I was not around during the Middle-Ages), male chauvisism has continued to play ts role,being a pastry chef being defined as requiring "few hours and less physical energy" and here too relegated largely to those "of the weaker sex".

You know its nonsense and I know its nonsense, but talk to those French and Italian super-star chefs that even today will not allow women into their kitches except as pastry or dessert chefs. Sheesh......from the time it opened until the day it closed, Paris' famed Cafe Anglais would not even allow a women to VISIT their kitchens.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
About 60% of Baking & Pastry students at the CIA are women.  My guess is that the women tend to lean more towards opening bakeries and pastry shops of their own, while the men prefer the atmosphere of the kitchen.  We had a few women from my Culinary Arts group transfer to Baking & Pastry because they physically couldn't handle the demands of service, whether they weren't fast enough or not strong enough or not coordinated enough.  Men are generally more suited for demanding physical environments, and if you don't think so or are offended, compare women's athletics to mens.  It's fact.  I think it's the same when deciding whether to go into a high-stress, time based kitchen environment vs. opening a bakeshop.

Where did you get the 60% number. I'd like to use it but I need some baking for my editor. probably my readers too

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...