Image by Calum Lewis

WOMEN BELONG TO THE KITCHEN: DO THEY?

10/4/21
Elisa Principato

It is a common belief that a woman’s natural habitat is the kitchen (thanks patriarchy!).

But it is peculiar to note how, when the kitchen environment becomes professional, this phenomenon ceases to be the case. 


If we take a look at the percentage of well know female chefs around the world or at their presence in the most renewed culinary guides, these presumptions become facts. 

In the Michelin guide in a global selection of 150 restaurants that gained three stars (which is the maximum) only five are led by women. 


Another pattern that is easy to notice if you follow the matters of the field, is how, when women are included in top-level restaurant’s kitchen staff, they are usually pastry chefs. 

Is this somehow linked to the preconception that women are more indulgent and sweeter? 

Or that the women’s role should be confined to some accessory activity that separates them from the main team and leaves them with their own “time”.


There is, indeed, a tendency for the male lead chefs to believe that women are too weak and can’t handle the stress and physical effort that is required in top-notch restaurants:


In March of 2010 when Davide Oldani, a now two-star Italian Michelin chef, was asked the reason why he didn’t have any women in his team, he bluntly answered “just because they can’t take it”.


At the Paris 50 best talks in 2019 when a reporter asked the famous French chef and entrepreneur Yannick Alléno why there weren’t any female guest chefs at the panel his answer sets us back 50 years: “In my restaurants, women's brigades are mainly around at noon, but at night, women want to go home to take care of their children. It's genetic, women are made to give birth, not men.” The statement, as expected, was not well accepted by the audience for the innumerous stigmas and prejudices that is based on. What is still so shocking to hear is the preconceived idea that is a men’s place to decide what is right or wrong for women or that it is their duty to take care of their “fragile” position. 


Incredibly, the idea of a female chef in charge seems so off that when there is indeed a woman in the picture all people seem to care about is her status as a woman leading a restaurant. 


When Clare Smyth, head chef at Core, received the acknowledgment as the best global female chef in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants she was asked about what it feels like to be a female chef nowadays. She answered quickly: ”I don’t know. How would I know? I’ve never been a male chef.”

Her statement was not only stating clearly the gender equality issues that are so present in the field, but it also pointed out how these types of questions are so detrimental and lead to a misconception that there should naturally be a distinction between the gender’s conditions in the work field.