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Where Are the Women Chefs?

For most of history, women played a large role in the kitchen, and now in 2007, the majority of chefs that dominate restaurant kitchens are male. All three winners of Bravo's Top Chef were males. The final contestants on the Next Iron Chef are male. So where are the female chefs?

Star Chefs recently sought to answer this question by speaking with nine of the nation's top female chefs. They asked the chefs about having a family, prioritizing, the strength it takes to last in the kitchen, cooking with soul, and experimental techniques. Here's a snippet from their interview with San Francisco's Traci DesJardins:

"You never hear men talk or get asked about their kids as an issue — it’s because they probably have a wife who takes care of the kids. I have my son only two days a week and I’m not available to the restaurant on the days that I take care of my son. So if a critic walks in that day, I’m not going to be there, I’m going to be with my son. Period.

It's a sad truth that having children doesn't affect male chefs as much as it will female chefs, but this is something all female professionals have to deal with, not just chefs. What do you think? Will the role of females in the culinary work force change or will men continue to be in control?

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Join The Conversation
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
mamaseacat mamaseacat 9 years
It is a sad truth. Women who have children end up prioritizing their lives around family. I quit my job as soon as I had my daughter. I always thought I'd go back. Now I can be with her AND work from home. I'm not "aiming high." I'm "aiming HAPPY."
apinkpony apinkpony 9 years
... my passion is food, cooking, baking, etc. Everyone says I should go to culinary school. But I am in business school. Why? Because of the kid thing. I sometimes consider the fact that I could do a bakery, cafe or maybe catering... but it would still take away far to much time from my future children (and family is #1 to me). We will see where it goes though, I would still like to possibly persue something with cooking, and I can do that with a business degree.
Diana172 Diana172 9 years
I agree, devious!
DeviousMuse DeviousMuse 9 years
I think you also see most of the females who enter the culinary world go into the pastry/baking side of things. If you watch the competitions on Food Network (sugar sculptures, gingerbread houses, etc.), its dominated by women.
mbrown81 mbrown81 9 years
So everyone know there is one female Iron Chef (Cat Cora). I think that soon enough we'll be seing more women getting the recognition they deserve.
Athena1 Athena1 9 years
Being a successful chef is one profession that would be hard for a working mother because the restaurant business requires more than just 8-9 hours a day. The investment in time really takes you away from your kids and life. Having read Kitchen Confidential and other food books, the discrimination against women in some kitchens is still pretty strong. In some cultures such as in Thailand, women are still the main chefs in the kitchen, but not so much in Europe or North America.
nikodarling nikodarling 9 years
This is very close to my heart. I trained to be a chef when I was younger. After 3 years I finished my apprenticeship and I promptly gave up. I didn't have kids so that wasn't the issue for me(though I saw other women struggle with this). The world of cooking is an old boys club and the majority of the men will do anything they can try put you down. Being a woman means its open season on you. I was berated for not being able to lift heavy boxes(as if that is the making of a great chef) I was given the smallest most meaningless tasks and routinely watched male colleagues being singled out for praise while I got no acknowledgement for my skills. Then after work all the guys would be invited out for beers while I was left out in the cold. The only way I would go back into the food industry would be to go into catering which is where most women seem to wind up.
Soaringbird Soaringbird 9 years
Definatly more props should be given to female Chefs. It is a tough world balancing career, family and kids.
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
I'd like to see/hear about more femail chefs although I do have to agree the children aspect is cause for change.
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