"I’ve been wondering about this for a long time, and I’ve never said anything before, but recently what I suspected was finally confirmed: women can’t cook. I thought they could, but after this year’s James Beard awards, I realize: nope. 24 people received awards this year, and three of them were women (one chef, one pastry chef and Ariane Batterberry shared a Lifetime Achievement Award with her husband)." [For those of you that aren't familiar with the James Beard award, it's basically like the Grammy or the Academy Awards of the restaurant world.]
Dirt Candy is a great restaurant and Cohen is their talented executive chef. Very talented. The other female chefs she mentions, April Bloomfield and Anita Lo, are just as talented. Her graph though, is a bit disturbing. As a statistics nerd (and science nerd), it makes me cringe
a little A LOT:
Now, I wouldn't say that the number of awards given out to a gender is equated with cooking ability. Awards are just merits or accolades of recognition and the basis of that is usually subjective or based on a voting system. Additionally, a lot of the men nominated for James Beard were already well-known or at least under the radar -- I would not be surprised if they all had PR representation. Not. at. all.
Grub Street wrote a response to Cohen's rant about the hype:
"The more a chef is written about, the more likely he is to win awards, and vice versa — so being excluded from the media-awards continuum hits female chefs coming and going. "Why would an investor back a female chef in a restaurant?" asks Cohen. "He knows that she won’t get the hype and attention a male chef will get." Hype seems to be the key here, not talent: Women just don't seem to come by it as easily as men do."
Sadly, to an extent it's true. Volatile chefs and chefs with temper tantrums seem to make a lot of appearances in food sites just because it garners so much attention. Interestingly, I feel like if a female chef did something similar it would automatically be attributed to PMS or that she's simply "a bitch." The double standards are immense but it's not even just in the restaurant industry because you see it almost everywhere.
Cohen did write a rant after all and I can see her frustration in the male dominated world of restaurants. The recognized men in the food world are mainly male chefs but women? The most recognized women are usually associated with "lifestyles" and "down to earth home cooking" (or "Mom's cooking" if you wanna call it that). So, what would female chefs have to do to get a little bit of attention?
There was a food event a year ago that I remember called "Gender Confusion: Unraveling the Myths of Gender in the Restaurant Kitchen" at the Astor Center:
"The panel was presented ten courses in sets of two, one made by a man and one by a woman. They tasted both dishes before discussing their thoughts with the audience and casting their votes for the chefs' genders. After the panelists stated their predictions, the chefs of each course were revealed, and they came out to discuss the results, introduce themselves, and answer any questions." (via)
You just have to read the whole review and the results at Eat Me Daily to get a sense of how things went. So, how much does food style and taste differ depending on the gender of the Chef? Not a lot. We would be eating a lot of "masculine" food if that was the case. Someone wrote on Eat Me Daily about why she quit cooking: the professional kitchen is basically a boy's club because it's usually male dominated. Sometimes kitchens run by an executive female chef are not as
sexist politically incorrect or male dominated; in fact, in these cases the atmosphere can be the opposite since I know of a male line cook that worked in a mostly female kitchen. To my knowledge, the kitchen jokes in a female dominated atmosphere involve less vulgar kitchen Spanish, body part jokes or sexual simulations using kitchen tools and utensils as the male dominated kitchens [yeah, this happens in professional kitchens!]
Overall, we can't deny that a gender difference exists in professional kitchens, whether it's cultural or more biological, the gender debate will probably never die.
What do you think? Did I forget to mention something?