Recently I was putting together a dining story for The Loop that required me to gather quotes from high-profile chefs across the city, and it struck me how difficult it was to find a female chef to interview. There were definitely a few obvious options, but these talented women had been done to death and I wanted to find others who were just as worthy of the spotlight. It was an extremely tricky task.
This isn’t news of course, but considering that cooking, at least in the home, has been traditionally viewed as a relatively feminine activity, it’s fascinating and completely mind-boggling to me how the food and restaurant industry could still be dominated by men in the year 2016.
The condescending phrase “Get back in the kitchen” has been thrown at us women all these years — so why is the restaurant kitchen still such a hostile environment for women, when clearly, as has been proven by generations of amazing multi-tasking housewives, that this doesn’t need to be the case at all?
It’s true that the long hours and more physical demands of the job might be deterrents for both men and women thinking about a career in F&B. But there are similarly structured industries — like news (with reporters conducting real-time field reporting) or medicine (with doctors on-call for emergencies) — where the hours are just as bad and the duties equally exhaustive, that don’t seem to scare women away as much as the thought of an industrial-scale kitchen.
There’s a favorite answer that (male) chefs like to give when we food writers toss them the generic question, “Where do you get inspiration from?” You’d be surprised — or maybe not at all — at how many chefs give shout-outs to their moms and grandmas, gushing about how a family dish they had when they were young ultimately influenced their whole career.
Well, I would really love to see more of these women themselves be able to do what they are obviously great at on a grander stage, if they so choose, and ultimately not be constrained to the kitchens of their own homes. Here’s to hoping!