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Gender issues in Culinary School classroom and professional kitchen?

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
Hi, All,

I'm new to ChefTalk and an instructor of food writing completing an inquiry project focused on gender in the kitchen. I'd very much like to hear from both women and men in culinary school in regard to your experiences shaped by gender in the classroom and/or professional kitchen--and any observations you might have about how gender works both in the "real life" kitchen and what you observe on food TV (Bravo/BBC/Food Network). I'm hoping to gain some insight to write an essay and inform my teaching in a culinary arts program.

I'm open to hearing from both male and female voices--reasons why you've been drawn to the professional kitchen (familial connections?), expectations, experiences, etc. If you're willing to answer some questions on email, please message me back with your email address. I'd love to hear from you!

Jen
post #2 of 6
I'd love to, as some one wo writes Essays for fun, Ill help you out.
 Meggs_848@hotmail.com
"I think every woman should own a blowtorch"
-Julia Cild http://therestau-rant.tumblr.com/
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"I think every woman should own a blowtorch"
-Julia Cild http://therestau-rant.tumblr.com/
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post #3 of 6
well the biggest observation i have made on that issue is that women seem to be much more cut throat in the kitchen. as for ability there is no barrier that can overcome desire and persistence so they are both equally able.

As for why i want to be a chef, my dad was always the one that cooked at home and it was cool to know that most other kids had all their food made by mom. that led to good bonding time with dad in the kitchen and a love of cooking.
"not now chief, I'm in the zone"
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"not now chief, I'm in the zone"
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post #4 of 6
from personal observations at my school most girls are baking and pastry(some dont even know how to use a knife), some that are in culinary dont like to touch meat or hate to clean up or work slow. a few are alright and will actually make good cooks. not to say that some of the guys i went to school with are not, some are slow too and cant think quick on their feet. also what make it even worse is when they never worked in a kitchen, meaning they work slow and dont realize some of the things we do at school is not the same as it is in the real world. like fighting over who washed dishes last week or yesturdday, who swepped the floor or who moped. im like who cares just someone do it, thus its either me or someone else that just wants to clean and leave. i really could care less if you are a woman, man or gay as long as you pull the same weight as everyone else i dont care. i think respect is big thing especially to me and if u dont have respect for me or the food then i dont wont nothing to do with that.
Chef it up errrrday!!!
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Chef it up errrrday!!!
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post #5 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by skatz85 View Post

from personal observations at my school most girls are baking and pastry(some dont even know how to use a knife), some that are in culinary dont like to touch meat or hate to clean up or work slow. a few are alright and will actually make good cooks. not to say that some of the guys i went to school with are not, some are slow too and cant think quick on their feet.


these are my observations as well.

 

post #6 of 6
I'm male, but I'm 40 and because of early classes and friends interested in the subject, I have tried to be somewhat conscious of gender issues for almost 20 years, in various workplaces including my own company, and on two continents.

We have almost a 60-40% ratio of men to women on our campus, believe it or not.

The only real tangible difference that I'm aware of is a tendency toward slightly less muscle in the forearms which isn't to say a few men walking around are short of forearm muscle too (myself included). I have a tendency to frequently offer to help women in our school with any form of lifting that involves that lack of arm strength but only when it looks like help might be needed and even then I'm sure I'm often recieved as being a little chauvanistic in the process.

But to be honest, women seem very comfortable around a gentleman in the kitchen, as do gentlemen feel comfortable around women, but I do notice little boys frequently commenting on things like the "squeemishness", and cattiness of the girls, and likewise the girls often comment on the crassness of the boys. Sound familiar?

A trend I will also acknowledge witnessing in at least two different kitchen classes is when women collide and can't get along. She's out to get her and her is out to get she and there's really nothing any of us innocent bystanders can do but get out of the way and hope not to get run over by that Mack truck.

But there are male equivalents to this, where two A types refuse to acknowledge one or the other as a team leader or whatever. The difference seems to be that the males get on with the work, while bickering and never resolving the conflict - where the women will get on the work while stabbing each other in the back later and indirectly, eg telling Chef that the other woman isn't doing her job correctly.

In our school the strongest students are well-represented by both sexes. The stronger women tend to be quiet and not outwardly sociable (although very sociable when approached by anyone). The stronger men tend to be more focused on the team and so seem more interactive with the group, but can also be less task focused. And these are only my interpretations of tendencies of course, not absolutes. You'd almost guess the opposite would be true following gender stereo-types but it doesn't seem so with the sample i can observe.

The few 'alpha female' personalities we have (to use/make-up terms i don't really understand) are very good at adapting and evolving quickly to meet any new challenge - something i'm very impressed with. They don't let their ego get in the way as much as alpha-type males do, but they can rock just as hard in most forms. 

There are a lot of females intending to go pastry, but many of those have changed their major to savory after a few classes, and there are just as many men looking to go pastry as there are women. I think a majority of students on our campus are actually intending to complete both pasty and savory certificates since there isn't a huge amount of difference in credits between them (another few cooking classes).

As for not using a knife most of our best knife work is coming from well thought out presentations created by females. I guess we're lucky not to have any of the females in our school who can't use a knife, I've had to show more men how to use their knife for a given operation than I've had to with the women. And the women have shown me more tricks with a knife than men have.

The squeemishness isn't limited to the women - I can't tell you how many "men" are too scared to shove their hand in a dirty drain or can't get the hang of using a mop properly because they don't know how to hold one for more than about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, the women are generally always happy to prove their ability to deal with the ugly in the kitchen. I'm notorious in the school for doing the dishes because too frequently everyone wants to sit around and deliberate over who needs to do them this time - and the only other people I see volunteering for the nasty work (just to get it over with asap like me) are women. the little girls, in fact. But they line up every week and they don't mess around. I'm not saying men don't, but it seems much more rare for men than women to see them actually doing the work (as opposed to directing the work which all the alpha types have plenty of experience doing =p).
 
Edited by Culinuthiast - 5/4/10 at 9:36am
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