Have women changed the face of professional cooking?
Traditionally all through time a womans stereotypical place has always been in the kitchen, the home kitchen that is. Actually I take that back it wasn't so much a stereotype as it just was what it was. I actually think traditionally that is where most women wanted to be, taking care of the home and spending time with the children. Whether thats because of the maternal instinct or because that is what they felt society expected of them, I don't know. But oh how the times have changed, we see more and more men staying at home being the caretaker and more women being the career focused, financial provider.
With the help of many rights activists, world wars and social and economic upturns and downturns women have been able to explode into the work force, not without many challenges. This is true of the cooking industry, professional cooking is a male dominated industry, it has been very hard for women to break into this career. Which seems strange to me since as I said before a womens place was traditionally in the kitchen, it has been said that it is too labor intensive for women, but we have set out to prove them wrong and I think we have done a pretty good job. With the likes of Alice Waters, the great Julia Child and more recently Anna Olson, Lynn Crawford and the list goes on, women have been taken more seriously in the professional kitchen.
I have been working in kitchens for a very long time and yes it has been with mostly men, but over the years I have seen more and more women entering the industry, actually I have worked in one kitchen where there was more women than men, not something you see too often. Currently where I work the head pastry chef is a woman and the last place I worked the only sous chef was a woman . But I have never had the pleasure of having a women executive chef. There are more male head chefs than women... do I believe that is because they are better cooks, or women just are not getting the recognition they deserve, no not all, being that there is more men in the industry it seems to only make sense that more men would be head chefs.
So why are there less women than men in this industry, well it seems that whoever they are, are right, it is a very labor intensive job. A lot of long hours and hard work go into being a professional chef. A lot of women have big dreams of being very successful in there careers and a lot of those women want to have families as well, thats a lot to juggle at the same time. This industry makes it exceptionally difficult, not that it can't be done. Its not your typical 9-5 Monday to Friday job, your working when others are not. Your shift can begin at any time of day, early in the morning or very late at night and the hours are unpredictable, you could be slow one minute and in the juice the next! I know there are other jobs out there like this but I am not talking about other jobs, I am talking about the professional cook. So for this reason I think that is why you don't see many women in the kitchen, its very difficult to have a family life. I know I am rarely home, during normal hours, thank god my Husband is a cook too. It would be very difficult to try and raise a family, the thought hasn't even crossed my mind, I don't know where I would fit it in, I wouldn't even be able to take care of a dog properly.
In fact in my whole career as a cook I have only known three women to have children. Two of whom I work with currently.. all of them have children that are teenagers or young adults. All three were cooks before they had children but took time off to raise there family then went back to work when there children where old enough to take care of themselves. Most of the women I have worked with including myself are not willing to give up doing what we love so much to do that, its hard enough to find a social life outside the kitchen and actually meet a lifelong partner let alone start a family.
Even with more women entering into this career, it is still very much a male dominated industry, and I don't actually mind that, most of us don't. I think we actually enjoy just being one of the guys, we can be as rude and crude as they are (not saying everyone is rude and crude). I can't even remember how many times I've said, "Why is so and so busting my balls?", or "Watch your nuts." when I swing open the door of a low boy, whether its a girl or guy... yes I know its not very lady like. We are all treated the same I am expected to do the same job as everyone else in the kitchen, heavy lifting and all. If someone tried to stop me from doing something just because I am female I think I would be quite insulted, but sometimes the guys are just trying to be nice. I have heard many times throughout my career, "I know.. its because I'm a girl", when something doesn't work out the way they had expected it too. But I don't find that statement true at all, its just an excuse to make themselves feel better. Or at least I don't believe its true in any of the places of worked, not to say it doesn't happen in other kitchens. The kitchens I have worked in seem pretty open to women in the kitchen and most of the guys probably don't see it as women vs men but more of cook vs cook, you are either a good one or bad one, or just a little green.
There are many pros and cons to having women in the kitchen and if you have ever worked in one, you know what I am talking about. We see things a little differently and attack different assignments differently, call us stubborn, focused or maybe we just feel like we have something to prove. So maybe the question isn't, Have women changed the face of the professional kitchen?, but rather, Has the professional kitchen changed the face of a women?
You may think this blog is about the trials and tribulations of being a cooks wife, but actually I am also a cook myself. I actually meet Ken almost four years ago in a kitchen working side by side and now here were are 4 years later still working somewhat side by side.