A Woman's Place is in the Kitchen
Abby Olitzky | Chef's Blade
The other day I was reading a piece in Time Out New York titled “Bitchin Confidential.”
The article explained that there are many women chefs, but they don’t get as much press as their male counterparts, especially in New York City. This, of course, is truly a shame. Even though women are technically on the same playing field as the men, they are treated differently.
To be honest, I feel more my gender in cooking school than ever. Despite my food knowledge and dedication and hard work, some of the men in my class have total disregard and disrespect for what I do. I am not here to complain about the men in my class and the unfair treatment of women. I knew as I entered this field (as I would any field, really) what I would have to deal with. I wasn’t expecting to be treated any differently. There are so many men in the culinary industry who respect me, or even who have taught me. But for the most part, I am regarded with lesser expectations and further, undermined.
Perhaps it is not so much being undermined as it is the maturity of some of my classmates. Perhaps I shouldn’t find their crude jokes insulting but rather a clear indication of their lack of respect for what they are doing. The more I am able to manage them and their antics, the more I realize they aren’t treating me differently due to fact that I am in same field as them, but that is just who they are.
When weighing the pros and cons of the culinary career path, I read Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. I got pretty nervous. They way he described the atmosphere in the kitchen was brutal – women getting sexually harassed or women acting so tough, trying to present a hardened and fierce persona. I decided to go into the business anyway – after all, this is my passion. I knew what to expect, so I shouldn’t be alarmed at the treatment I get at school. But should I expect this throughout my career? Will it be different if I work under a female chef?
Despite the increase of female chefs, the James Beard Foundation only nominated eight female chefs last year – a tiny number in comparison to the men.
Why, in this field, an area domestically dominated by women, are we less recognized? Is it due to the fact that we have dominated a domestic field, so it is not seen as a “professional” option for us?
What other challenges do women face when entering this profession? And what have you seen change?
I am looking to hear your experiences as I am opening up a can of worms in order to have a dialogue and forum discussion.