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jm chen

Women in the (Restaurant) Kitchen

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Article today on Intrepid Media about the apparent lack of women as head chefs in big-name restaurants, and why this is bad news but not as bad as we might think. Just my opinion, of course -- feel free to weigh in.

Click here for "Over A Hot Stove".


Edited by jm chen (log)

Cooking and writing and writing about cooking at the SIMMER blog

Pop culture commentary at Intrepid Media

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When will all you liberals get it through your heads that a woman's place is in the kitch....

waitaminute...


--

ID

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Heck of a thread, GG, and heck of an article that started it all. I had heard the arguments about women not being suited to long hours, heavy lifting, etc., but I'd certainly never heard that our taste buds aren't up to the task.

By the way, I've finally managed to fix the link in the first post, for those interested. Oops. Still kinda new to this particular program. :unsure:


Edited by jm chen (log)

Cooking and writing and writing about cooking at the SIMMER blog

Pop culture commentary at Intrepid Media

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Umm... Who wants to point out to the idiot who wrote the article that "Peter Luger" is not a chef (or alive, for that matter)?


I want pancakes! God, do you people understand every language except English? Yo quiero pancakes! Donnez moi pancakes! Click click bloody click pancakes!

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You may also want to look beyond the Northeast Corridor. NY/DC aren't the only towns in America.


“"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.”

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Certainly true, and I didn't mean to imply that they were. Apparently San Francisco, in particular, has quite a few female chefs of interest.

But my underlying point still applies -- even where it's more balanced, it's still pretty unbalanced.


Cooking and writing and writing about cooking at the SIMMER blog

Pop culture commentary at Intrepid Media

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<sticks foot in mouth>


I want pancakes! God, do you people understand every language except English? Yo quiero pancakes! Donnez moi pancakes! Click click bloody click pancakes!

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<sticks foot in mouth>

Hilarious! :laugh:

My policy is to say only what I would say face to face. Although I've been known to be more direct in person than I am on egullet. Because it would be private. Egullet on the other hand is a public forum.


Edited by touaregsand (log)

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I'm actually writing a term paper that touches on this issue somewhat.

While doing research, I came across a few articles that basically state that professional cooking historcially tried to remove itself from the domestic side of cooking as much as possible because that's how it distinguished itself. Women were thus less welcome to the professional kitchen because they symbolized the domestic (since women do most of the cooking at home).

Personally I think there's some truth in it, because why else are professional kitchens so 'masculine'? You could argue that the heat, the stress and everything makes it inevitable that cooks have to be tough but then there are women in the army. Why the language then? I mean, there's no real need to have so much testosterone-charged discourse in the professional kitchen. Why do a lot of men in kitchen seem to wanna pick on women in restaurant kitchens? In most other jobs there'd be a lot of sexual harrassment suits involved but less so in the kitchen.

So maybe it's not so much that women can't make it in the kitchen, just that there's (partly) an artificial barrier towards them getting in? Just a theory.

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Makes sense to me, Gul.

Jael, I like your article but what I like best is your bio on Intrepid Media. :laugh::laugh::laugh::laugh::laugh:


Michael aka "Pan

 

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I'm actually writing a term paper that touches on this issue somewhat.

While doing research, I came across a few articles that basically state that professional cooking historcially tried to remove itself from the domestic side of cooking as much as possible because that's how it distinguished itself. Women were thus less welcome to the professional kitchen because they symbolized the domestic (since women do most of the cooking at home).

Personally I think there's some truth in it, because why else are professional kitchens so 'masculine'? You could argue that the heat, the stress and everything makes it inevitable that cooks have to be tough but then there are women in the army. Why the language then? I mean, there's no real need to have so much testosterone-charged discourse in the professional kitchen. Why do a lot of men in kitchen seem to wanna pick on women in restaurant kitchens? In most other jobs there'd be a lot of sexual harrassment suits involved but less so in the kitchen.

So maybe it's not so much that women can't make it in the kitchen, just that there's (partly) an artificial barrier towards them getting in? Just a theory.

I think that there are a lot of reasons that not very many women make it to "Executive Chef" positions.......

The number one reason....probably find a guy, marry him, and want to have children.....and no offence to men, but women are primary care givers to children, and it would definitely be quite the juggling act to be able to pull that off and still be an executive chef.

Women who want to succeed in this industry HAVE to put their career first and everything else second. Women are just less likely to do that.......tons of women cooks that I have met, still want to have kids.......if you take a few years off to pop out a few kids and then try to go back? You will be starting at the bottom again unless you have one hell of a resume, or have great connections.

There are MANY female COOKS out there. Some of them perform better than the men....most of them are no-nonsense type of people. They couldn't give a crap about the jokes or the language that flies around. Who cares? It's words. Heat and stress are bad arguments....women usually handle stress better than men.....and heat is heat: anybody can respond badly to it.

Anyway...that is my personal opinion. Most women have a goal of having children....and most men have a goal of having a great career. Cooking is tougher on married couples. I know many male chefs who are divorced because of it...and many more who have no time to date. I was lucky to find my husband early. I started cooking after I got married, and it was partially his fault that I got into it. He is massively supportive of me and my work...but understands that I will be working 70-90 hours a week, and that he won't see me for days sometimes. He also knows that children has never been my goal.

Have i been ridiculed for this stance?...Yes. Have I had an Alsatian chef tell me that my place is to be at home barefoot and pregnant?...Yes. Have I got respect from my peers...Yes. But it sure hasn't been an easy road. Women can make it if they really want to....but they HAVE to WANT it more than anything.

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Irish Girl, Hello...

If I am reading you correctly, you are implying even though you have "made it" most women would be less appropriate in any role that takes a great deal of time and devotion. Tht would of course then rule women out from considertion as medical doctors, hospital administrators, senior business executives, airline pilots, university professors, attorneys-at-law, journalists, film-makers and a host of other professions.

With no attempt whatever at political correctness, may I simply disagree with that.


Edited by Daniel Rogov (log)

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No offense...I am NOT implying that women are incapable or innappropriate. I am just saying that most women have priorities elsewhere.

Cooking/Chefing is a profession that is extremely hard physically, mentally etc.

These are observations that I have made. The two female Execs that I know, are both not married and don't have kids. It's a life choice. I don't know very many females that are willing to give that up. To try to have it all....I think is unrealistic. That is NOT making assumptions about other careers. I know nothing about the other careers that you have mentioned. I just know, that in my career, if i were to have children, that would probably be it. I would have to find something else. Is it unfair? Maybe. Who said that life is fair?

There would have to be a compromise somewhere. I know that my Job right now, requires me to eat, live, breathe, and sleep what I do. Having children would shift my focus, and would make me not able to do my job as well as I could.

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There are MANY female COOKS out there.  Some of them perform better than the men....most of them are no-nonsense type of people.  They couldn't give a crap about the jokes or the language that flies around.  Who cares?  It's words.  Heat and stress are bad arguments....women usually handle stress better than men.....and heat is heat: anybody can respond badly to it.

I was trying to say that heat & stress are bad arguments too! And I'm not saying women in the kitchen cant take the language and jokes, but just felt that it was put there (probably by men :wink: ) to try to alienate women.

The fact that you say you've been ridiculed for your stance and what your Alsatian chef told you is exactly the point of my post. My Anthro prof would probably argue that the 'need' to ridicule women by men in kitchens has been 'naturalized',

meaning we've always thought of it as 'proper' kitchen culture. And if by saying it wasn't an easy road gaining respect from you peers as a result of this hegemonic view, then I guess that backs up my point too. (Though I suppose anybody who started from the bottom, regardless of gender, wouldn't gain respect immediately as well.)

However, I suppose I agree that a person (man or woman) needs to want to make it to the top before he can actually reach it. I just don't think this issue is strictly a gender thing though because I'm sure a great number of men don't make it to the top of their professions (restaurant trade included) because they don't necessarily do all that it takes to get there.

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However, I suppose I agree that a person (man or woman) needs to want to make it to the top before he can actually reach it. I just don't think this issue is strictly a gender thing though because I'm sure a great number of men don't make it to the top of their professions (restaurant trade included) because they don't necessarily do all that it takes to get there.

I think this has more to do with it than whether or not someone wants to have children. I know plenty of women who don't have children for a variety of reasons (lack of desire, infertility, aren't married and don't want to do the single-mom thing) but many of them also don't want to be married to their job 80 hours a week. That takes a tremendous amount of commitment and for many people it is not worth it. For some people, working their job 80 hours a week is fulfilling and invigorating; for others it's like prison. I think that kind of approach cuts across gender lines.

I think in many respects this might be a gender-role stereotyping issue, from another angle. Maybe fewer women are executive chefs because as a society, it's more acceptable for a woman to work an easier schedule and live a more modest lifestyle than it is for a man to do the same thing. If a woman chooses an easier way of making a living - one that doesn't require her to work long hours and climb a ladder - she has "balanced priorities;" if a man does the same thing, he's lazy and has no ambition. Maybe there's a culture that makes it more uncomfortable for a man to be a chef if he's not constantly striving upwards for more responsibility?

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Good comments all. Gul, I especially agree with the masculine environment of most kitchens as a key barrier to keeping women out. In discussing this with my boyfriend last night he also brought up that it seems like you can have all the benefits of being a chef -- designing recipes, pleasing people, playing with great ingredients -- without being a top toque. Running a catering business, or being a personal chef, for example, would have many of the same benefits, without all of the drawbacks (late nights, unfriendly environment) of trying to push your way to the top of the kitchen as a woman.

Which again, makes me appreciate and admire the women who have chosen the harder path. I have GOT to get over to 1789 one of these days.

(And Pan, thanks!)

Jael


Cooking and writing and writing about cooking at the SIMMER blog

Pop culture commentary at Intrepid Media

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Can someone out there speak on the topic of mentoring in a professional kitchen?

I know, for instance, that Grant Achatz rose to sous chef at the French Laundry, but would he call Thomas Keller a mentor?

Sidebar: I'm sure the answer to that is somewhere in the eGullet forums but I'm too lazy to do a search. End Sidebar

In the computer industry, where I worked for 10 years (give or take) mentoring was very often a factor in promotions for young male employees. Mentored by a male executive, their rise was often more rapid than equally qualified women around them.

Women executives, on the other hand, seemed to rarely want to pass on the secrets to their success. I theorized that women, in general, were less secure in their positions and more apt to view other women as competition. Mentoring, in my experience, was rarely cross-gender. Before I get slammed out there, I know that this is my anecdotal experience, very generalized and that there are exceptions to all of the above.

So, a couple of questions: does mentoring exist in the restaurant world? Do women exec chefs make efforts to reach out to women just starting out in the field? I'm aware that there is a professional assc. for women chefs - is it effective in promoting and supporting women in the kitchen? Is it easier to rise to the top if you are a man due to mentoring (or, as some would call it, an "old boy" network)?

I think this is an issue germane to the topic. I hope everyone agrees.


Stephanie Kay

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I really wish I had more time to devote to this topic -- it's fascinating to me. For the past 15-or so years, I've worked full-time in the industry as a writer, cook, chef, manager, owner, consultant and teacher -- sometimes concurrently. During that time I've handled seven corporate relocations -- while it's given me a great perspective and experience, the resume is full of holes. For me, that has been the greatest block to my rising through the ranks. There's still time, and I'm committed to not moving again until my youngest graduates HS in four years. I'll graduate from school this year, and am really excited about what the future holds.

My school chefs are the absolute best, and so are my classmates. I've had the most negativity from younger women who, after a lifetime of empowerment, have no problem with telling me to go home and take care of my kids! I simply comment aloud that it's sweet that a 22 year old has the same attitude about my proper place in the world, as my 70 year old mother in law! :laugh:

I will say that when I went looking for an Externship site, some places simply wouldn't reply to my resume, after lots of interested phone calls and emails. The ones that did ... well, they were the best chefs and the best restaurants, period.

Fabby


"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office

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Can someone out there speak on the topic of mentoring in a professional kitchen?

I think this is an issue germane to the topic. I hope everyone agrees.

Women Chefs and Restaurateurs has a mentorship program, open to students and those working in the field, alike. It's pretty cool.


"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office

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Jael, I like your article but what I like best is your bio on Intrepid Media. :laugh:  :laugh:  :laugh:  :laugh:  :laugh:

But it's not there anymore.


Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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While doing research, I came across a few articles that basically state that professional cooking historcially tried to remove itself from the domestic side of cooking as much as possible because that's how it distinguished itself. Women were thus less welcome to the professional kitchen because they symbolized the domestic (since women do most of the cooking at home).

You might want to do some research on Les Meres Chefs of Lyon. The culinary history of Lyon owes much to them.

Eugenie Brazier had 6 stars decades before Alain Ducasse. I think that she got her first three 3 in the 20's.

One of her restuarants is called "La Mere Brazier" Website.


Edited by chefzadi (log)

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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Can someone out there speak on the topic of mentoring in a professional kitchen?

I know, for instance, that Grant Achatz rose to sous chef at the French Laundry, but would he call Thomas Keller a mentor?

Sidebar: I'm sure the answer to that is somewhere in the eGullet forums but I'm too lazy to do a search. End Sidebar

In the computer industry, where I worked for 10 years (give or take) mentoring was very often a factor in promotions for young male employees. Mentored by a male executive, their rise was often more rapid than equally qualified women around them.

Women executives, on the other hand, seemed to rarely want to pass on the secrets to their success. I theorized that women, in general, were less secure in their positions and more apt to view other women as competition. Mentoring, in my experience, was rarely cross-gender. Before I get slammed out there, I know that this is my anecdotal experience, very generalized and that there are exceptions to all of the above.

So, a couple of questions: does mentoring exist in the restaurant world? Do women exec chefs make efforts to reach out to women just starting out in the field? I'm aware that there is a professional assc. for women chefs - is it effective in promoting and supporting women in the kitchen? Is it easier to rise to the top if you are a man due to mentoring (or, as some would call it, an "old boy" network)?

I think this is an issue germane to the topic. I hope everyone agrees.

Mentoring exists in the restaurant world. There's been some talk here about machismo in the kitchen, cattiness probably exists too. Both probably exist less at the FD level. I don't think it's easier to rise to the top if you are a man due to mentoring though. If you look at chefs now, consideration into the number (percentage) of females who entered the field say 10 or more years ago have to be considered.

When I was attending culinary school in France the number of female students was nominal. If you look at French chefs my age (37) and older most of come from working class families, farms or family in the business. Very few of us even thought about going to University before attending culinary school. Hell, most of us didn't even think University as opposed to Trade was an option. It was thought of has hard work. If you didn't have talent and some luck, it was accepted that you would be doing grunt work as a career. Contrast it with todays attittude that that piece of paper will eventually land you a glamorous chef job.

Flash forward, being a chef is perceived as being considerably more glamorous and the job market for those with a culinary education is expanding, not just in restaurants but as private/personal chefs, catering, etc.

My students at LCB are very different from my school mates way back when. Some are older career changes (a few even have advanced degrees), some are straight ouf high school, others are straigh out of University and yes many more female students. One of my female students is a bit older and she drives a Bently, another is an African Princess.

The world is changing.

I never benefited in the long run from mentoring. When I was younger I wanted to travel, so I moved on to the next city, country. In Los Angeles there aren't enough French restaurants. If I moved to New York where I hear the mentoring system with French chefs is stronger, maybe I'd be doing something else right now. But I really like what I'm doing now.

One last point, even though I was born in France I have an Arabic first name. There were times when I would call for a job and I would told no, because of my name. I was told that I was not French. I would say, "But I was born here. It's my mother tongue." The reply, "Non, non you are not French. No job." This sort of thing is illegal now and attitudes have changed dramatically. Another difference between my students and former schoolmates is color. Lots of color, black, brown, olive, yellow...

Many of them tell me that I inspired them because I'm a man of color is chef whites.

The world is changing we'll be seeing more and more female chefs, chefs of color and female chefs of color. Let's give it some time before pointing fingers at machismo. I'm sure someone here will come up examples of sexism they've encountered. I can counter with examples of racism. Which I won't.


I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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