Professional Kitchens Are Traditionally Boys’ Clubs, But Times Are Changing

The New York Times examines the trend towards greater equality in restaurant kitchens.

In an article yesterday for The New York Times, Julia Moskin examines the trend towards greater equality in restaurant kitchens. Moskin interviews female restaurant leaders like Lauren DeSteno, chef de cuisine at Marea in NYC, Sue Chan of the Momofuku group,  and Michelle Bernstein, the chef and owner of Michy’s in Miami, who started out in the 1980s.

No matter how much of a strong feminist you are, it is hard to work in such a male-dominated industry,” says Sue Chan, who founded the Toklas Society, a network for women who work in the restaurant industry. Regardless, a wave of female chefs like Lauren DeSteno—who recently moved up from executive sous-chef to chef de cuisine—are rising through the culinary ranks. “Ms. DeSteno is living an idea whose time may have finally come: that one’s sex has nothing to do with the real work of a chef,” writes Moskin.

Moskin also focuses on available statistics,

“More than ever, women are filling the second- or third-tier jobs (chef de cuisine, executive sous-chef) that will produce the next generation of leaders in the nation’s best restaurants, according to statistics and interviews. And more women are entering the pipeline at elite culinary schools.

The reasons are many: High-end restaurants, which like others have historically lagged in providing health insurance, paid vacations and competitive wages for their employees, are becoming more corporate and professional; even a T-shirt-wearing, cheerfully profane chef like David Chang has a human resources team and offers paid maternity leave.”

DeSteno notes, “This was a boys club, and in a lot of places it still is a boy’s club, but times are changing…In a good kitchen, male and female really doesn’t matter anymore.” Sue Chan comments, “We are the quiet power behind the throne. But sometimes everyone gets tired of being quiet.”

[via The New York Times]

  • Malcolm Troy Mcmillian

    For everyone of these strong women their are 10 who are weak or are flirting or are f**king everything in sight. I think they need to build up the women in the kitchen before crying sexism.

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