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Bias toward female chefs?

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
I am thinking of going to culinary school next year. with the idea of one day opening my own restaurant, but i was talking to a girlfriend of mine from utah, and she said i shouldn't bother. She said she went and tried for several years to break into the profession but there was just too much bias against female chefs. i probably wouldn't pay much attention to this, except several other people have voiced the same opinion recently.

is this true? have other people experienced this too?

thx. --j
post #2 of 23
Some friend huh? I am more inclined to believe that she couldn't cut it and that's why she felt that way.
Many years ago undoubtedly there was a bias. A womans place was to cook at home for the family. A professional kitchen was a mans place. Like many other things that has evolved. It didn't take overnight and certainly you will find pockets of bias occasionally. The same held true for any american that tried their luck in a european kitchen. We were regarded as inferior dogs and not fit to wash their pots. That too is changing.

There have been many women chefs both famous and non that haved forged their way through the male dominated profession to prove their equality and oft times superiority. Don't let the naysayers color your vision of a culinary career.

Here's what it boils down to. Being a woman in a career whose numbers still tilt towards being dominated by men, you will find some "good old boys" attitudes. But I promise you like any cook coming up, you bust your butt, keep your mouth shut, learn and work hard and you will truly be treated with respect and as an equal from even the oldest of dogs who can't learn any new tricks.
You want to go to culinary school? You go and prove to yourself whose right! :chef:
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My latest musical venture!
http://myspace.com/nikandtheniceguys
 
Also
http://www.myspace.com/popshowband "I'm at the age when food has taken the place of sex in my life. In fact I've just had a mirror put over my kitchen table." Rodney Dangerfield RIP
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post #3 of 23
If you truly feel you have the talent, work ethic, drive, and passion to do it, then go for it and don't let anyone stop you.
post #4 of 23
Alot of people can't cut it in the industry, male or female. Most of the women I've met who felt they were discriminated against, were the ones who couldn't cut it. IMO theres no difference between a man or woman in the workplace - only differences between individual people.

Of course, this is my opinion, not everyone's. Discrimination still does exist, cooking is not exactly an 'educated' trade, and many cooks have attitudes that don't belong in this day and age... I have been discriminated against on the basis of my age before (my experience and skills are very advanced for my age, and employers like to take advantage of this yet give me the lower wage based on my age and not my skills), and one Frenchman didn't like me because I was 'English' (or so he thought, before I cussed him out in French). I'm not one to take discrimination though, I refuse to accept it whether it's the FOH giving me attitude or the Executive chef. Let people know you're for real, you won't take any BS they send your way.

This reminds me of a funny story. One chef I worked for liked to slap people on the @ss before service (everyone, not in a sexual way, just for jokes). Once he snuck up on me, slapped my @ss, and without even thinking, just reflexes, I elbowed him square in the jaw, just about knocking him out. Never happened again.

One disadvantage for (some) women is the harsh nature of the business. You need to be tough to make it, as well as a little crazy. Many women are just too nice (IMO it's not a bad thing, I prefer being the nice guy, but sometimes you need to be an @sshole) , and don't stand up for themselves when they should. If you've got the right attitude though, nothing will get in your way, certainly not your gender.
post #5 of 23
a few years ago I hosted "Which Came First Chicks or Eggs?" as an opener to the market.....the perception around town was that there were no or very few women chefs. When I started looking it was amazing how many are really out there. We had a dozen and I didn't make it through the list.
The guys who were giving me a hard time got alittle more quiet.

As Chrose mentioned, there was a glass ceiling years ago....women were "did not go to culinary school". You make your own way, don't let anyone stop you.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #6 of 23
i work in a female dominated restaurant, the exec a line cook and all the FOH are female just me a few dishwashers and and some interns are male(17/W-5/M), ive been there for four yrs now and learned quite a bit from her. if you want to do it, do it, dont let your "freind" perseud you otherwise
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Sweet Jesus
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post #7 of 23
Our kitchen is run as a "joint operation" between myself and my (female) partner, and looking around the kitchen today I can count 3 guys and 4 women, not a bad demographic. :D
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Leading the global ban on cup and spoon measurements in recipes!
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post #8 of 23
You'll find people with all sorts of prejudices in any field. If you want the gig, get your heinie out there and do it. Nothing speaks louder than action.

I've worked on all male, ALMOST all female (I was sole exception) and 50/50 lines. The opportunities are out there. And, when you're the chef, you can choose whomever YOU want to work for and with you.

Ciao,
Order In/Food Out ~ It's NOT magic.
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"It's not getting any smarter out there. You have to come to terms with stupidity, and make it work for you." Frank Zappa
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Order In/Food Out ~ It's NOT magic.
- * - * - * - * -
"It's not getting any smarter out there. You have to come to terms with stupidity, and make it work for you." Frank Zappa
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post #9 of 23
This business is still pretty well dominated by males, but that doesn't mean that there aren't a fair share of females out there and I am sure that there are places that discriminate against females, but they are quickly becoming the exception, not the rule. If you want to get involved in this industry I think you should really go forward. There are plenty of opportunties for young, driven people of both genders. But, like most everyone said, this business is tough. It can chew you up and spit you out,whether you are male or female. As I have said many times before, in many discussions like this one, I will give everyone a chance in my kitchen, but if you can't hang I will send you packing. I don't give preference to either sex, but on the other hand, I won't go lightly on either sex also. Either you step up to the plate or get out. I think you will find most chefs, today, with that same attitude.
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http://www.onceachef.com/ is my personal blog where I share many recipes, my passion for cooking, and all things food.
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post #10 of 23

...I can't believe that

:beer:
First of all, I can't believe your friend didn't encourage you -- even though she still told you just the negataive things about it. Could she be jealous of you doing it too, thinking you could do a lot better?

I'm going into culinary school in January and I haven't thought much about it being a sexist field. Yes, I've read and heard about it, but it's something I believe in and love doing, just as much as men.

You go, girl! Good luck! :lips:

~~ChefC81~~
~~ChefC81~~
"Your words are my food, your breath my wine. You are everyting to me."
--Sara Bernhardt, (1844-1923)
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~~ChefC81~~
"Your words are my food, your breath my wine. You are everyting to me."
--Sara Bernhardt, (1844-1923)
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post #11 of 23
I definately would have to say that that friend of yours has no clue what she is talking about (no offence). The food industry is about one to one ratio on the whole sex matter. The food industry is most likely the least biased industry there is, considering that all types of races, sexes, religions, sexual orientations, etc. are employed throughout.
All perfections have imperfections.
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All perfections have imperfections.
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post #12 of 23
I just left a kitchen where we had two sous chefs.. one female one male. Everyone like the male cause he was nicer and the female was so **** tough.. Some days i hated her but then i look at her and i respect her cause she is doing her thing at a five star restaurant. I understand she has to have some steel in her cause the kitchen is roughly 20 males and say 5 females. And being that she is the ONLY female superior.. i can see why she is the way she is. She did not attend a culinary school... she worked her way up and she made it and i respect her all the more.

I am legally blind and female and intimidated to no end by most things but ya know what?? That does not stop me from trying. Dont let your femininity(?) affect your job honey. You can be and do anything you want including making it in this industry if you just put your mind to it. :)
post #13 of 23
Well....

The old saying I heard was "No vagina on the line-a" pretty much meaning no women.

However, I heard this from two people, both of them female chefs who would yell at waitresses who would nag them and stay around the line.

Discrimination does exist, sadly, but as far as I can see it, the food industry is such high stress, etc. anyway, it doesn't matter who or what you are as long as you work hard, are clean, and know your stuff.


The thing is, the women that typically make it...are less "feminine" due to their drive for success. The skills necessary are practicality, attitude, and a little bit of craziness. The women I cook with are hardcore into food--they tell raunchy jokes, take and play pranks, and don't care about their appearance. That's just what cooks are like (in my experience) male or female. We're all just...crazy ***holes.
post #14 of 23
Male or Female.....does not make a bit of difference anymore. Do you have the talent, skill and drive to succeed in this tough biz? If you think so.....go out there and do it.

I know this will ruffle some feathers, but I highly advise agaist culinary school. Yes, I went many years ago, but most have become a training ground for mediocrity of the highest order.

Find a Master....a real Master and learn all you can from that person and you will probably have more skill, ability and , most important, contacts than 99% of wanna-be's out there.
post #15 of 23
I wholeheartedly endorse apprenticeships, working with those that have more experience and just getting in some years. However, I would caution about blanket dismissals of schools. We all have different learning styles; some people flounder in academic settings while others thrive. Some struggle with text-based instruction, while others accel. Some learn by doing, while others learn by seeing. I am a firm believer that you get out of it whatever you put into it. Garbage in, garbage out it is said.

I worked for a Cordon-Bleu trained "chef" that couldn't make roux. I mean it! I worked for a non-formally trained "cook" that inspired me just by being in his shadow. So, there is more than one path; it is that path that you light with the torch that you carry that is the most important.

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Invention, my dear friends, is ninety-three percent perspiration, six percent electricity, four percent evaporation, and two percent butterscotch ripple

My Author Page

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post #16 of 23
My issue with culinary schools is that there are so many today that turn out......Chefs? That is what the poor souls who really don't know any better think they have become. In reality, unless they have already spent time in kitchens, are $30k in debt 'commis'. this, in turn, feeds our marketplace with ill-prepared, mediocre (mostly due to lack of experience) 'Chefs' who can be hired for $30k/year which degrades our profession.
Female or male, salaries in our business have been on the decline for the past 15 years. The reason seems clear; groth of 'chain' business as well as a large number of culinary graduates who call themselves 'chef' without having truly earned their right to do so.
Yes, culinary schools (Cal. Culinary, CIA, NECI, J&W) can be useful for those who know the business, but have shown, in my opinion, to also be a major contribution to the declination of our profession.
post #17 of 23
If anything, I would say its reversed now. Cooking schools have more women than men (as do most higher education centers these days), and I believe there is a decided bias toward hiring women these days, over men. I am not making any value judgements, just my observation.
post #18 of 23

Chef from Austria...

..we did our training a little bit different. i started (after finishing secondary school) at the age of 15. we do a 3year apprentice ship. starting with peeling potatoes, turning carrots and slicing cabbage.
during the quiet time (off season) we go to culinary school where we get all the 'theoretical' skills.
and you LEARN the BASICS.How to do a REAL demi-glace without poder and instant 'help' i worked for 4-5 month on each position, soup, entremetier, rotiseur and also pastry. aand it was always the basics that were most important. and how to do it right' the shortcuts you find out early enough' my pastry chef used to say.
than, if you can, work around the world. try to get contracts, were THEY pay you to come.. it is hard, but practice is the best teacher and you also can see the world. colleges are fineand good, but experience is what gives you the edge. i have worked with quite a few young people fresh out from hotel school. full of bright ideas, nothing wrong with that, but when a 300 people wanted to eat because their plane was delayed, it was panic x6...
and for females? for me as an executive chef, it counts what you CAN not what you ARE.
while it is 'tradition(?)' that females work in the cold kitchen or pastry shop times are changing.
go for it,but remember, you will work most weekends, christmasses, new years and other times when your friends are celebrating. and THAT can be sometimes harder to handle than anything else.
happy cooking!
good food, one of the few pleasures left to mankind...
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good food, one of the few pleasures left to mankind...
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post #19 of 23

Encouragement

girl4cooking...After chumming through the various discussions my first time through this forum, I felt compelled to offer my "two cents" to your post. Not knowing what your pre-exsisting expeerince entails, it is difficult to say just the right thing. Have you ever worked in a professional kitchen? If "no", then I reccomend getting a job in a restaurant right away and begin learning the hard way. THEN...after a year or so, consider going to school. Go to school with ACTUAL experience so when you finish, you won't look like a novice. This is a rough-neck buisness and female cooks and chefs have to be on their game and adorn themselves with very thick skin. I have many female friends that cook professionaly and I watched as they they struggled with macho crap day in and day out, but they are hardened professionals and I would be honored to have them be a part of my staff any day. Conversely, I recently took a 17 year old male apprentice under my wing and ended up cutting him loose after eight months because he just didn't have the wear-with-all for working in a kitchen. Gender shouldn't matter, but it is very hard work. Find out within yourself if this is really what you want to do professionally and then sink your teeth into it.
post #20 of 23
I’m a woman and a sous-chef. I can tell you this; the bias is there, it’s just taking on weird dysfunctional shapes these days, and it’s just as aggravating as the ol' slap on the *ss.

Everyone knows they are “supposed” to be politically correct, offer equal opportunities etc. And sure, we've made significant inroads there. But if there’s one thing those old kitchen dogs hate is a woman who is on to them and knows exactly what goes on behind her back.

It’s real tough out there for us girls and the fight is far from over. It’s a difficult balance for us; we struggle between the temptation to behave like the boys to make ourselves understood, and the need to remain women and not compromise who we are. Once you strike that balance, you’ll find that it’s all worth it. Go in with your eyes wide open. You’re in for a fun ride.
post #21 of 23
Just an additional note.

I received a message from one of my cohorts from culinary school. She was just named executive chef for one of the private clubs at Temple University.

The jobs and opportunities are out there. Everyone: male, female, red, green, yellow, white, purple, etc., has to deal with problems. Not trying to be a killjoy, but if you can't deal with them you'll never be able to get beyond it.

Ciao,
Order In/Food Out ~ It's NOT magic.
- * - * - * - * -
"It's not getting any smarter out there. You have to come to terms with stupidity, and make it work for you." Frank Zappa
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Order In/Food Out ~ It's NOT magic.
- * - * - * - * -
"It's not getting any smarter out there. You have to come to terms with stupidity, and make it work for you." Frank Zappa
Reply
post #22 of 23

jfb1060

I currently work with a female cook who has roughly 5 or 6 years of experience and I have nothing but the utmost respect for her. She appears to have developed some thick skin through the years but that's to be expected I guess. Some of the males are pretty sexist.

Personaly I don't have any problems working with a women in the kitchen. If she can deal with the pressure of the job and the men then I say she deserves every promotion she gets.

Joe
post #23 of 23
My instructor(s) were female (all but my bakery one), and to be honest, I wouldn't of traded them for anyone else.

I think your friend probably thought they were being hard on her because she was a female.

I say go anyway and not only prove your friend wrong, but anybody else who might want to give you crap about it.

Then when they want you to cook for em go: "Sorry, I thought you didn't like a female chef". :D
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