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Women in the kitchen

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 

Are women less likely to get hired in the kitchen? How common is it? I have heard and read many stories about this topic. Some chef acquaintances I know have told me that they would never hire women because it can complicate the dynamics of things in the kitchen. Although it’s not stated, some employers seem to favor the male applicant over the equally qualified female.

 

Kitchen labor can be physically demanding, requiring great strength. When it comes to lifting heavy things, working the heavy wok that weighs a ton, men have the greater physical strength to do these things with less difficulty. Some (and there are others that have the strength to toss around a man like a ping pong ball) women will have a hard time carrying out some of these tasks without the assistance of her equally competent (in every other kitchen skill), but physically stronger male counterpart. If both applicants are equal on every skill level, is it fair to say that the male applicant will have an advantage?

 

And then there is the office politics (or in this case “kitchen politics”) of it all. She is a woman, a “lady” that is being considered for being thrown in with a bunch of boys..where boys will be boys. Will she be able to fit in, join in on their dirty jokes, put them in their place when they are out of line? Or will she get offended when someone says “boobies”, cry when the chef yells at her, worry about breaking a nail? A short moment spent getting to know the applicant is not long enough to always tell. Then do most employers make the decision to go with the male applicant? I mean, ideally, it does seem like the easier choice, less to worry about.

 

Oh and I know from my own experience that women get sexually harassed in the kitchen (or is it just me?). Issues like this can become headaches that employers want to avoid.

post #2 of 21

Maybe years ago that was an issue, nowadays i think the playing field has been leveled. There are plenty of great women chefs out there. You have to know what you are getting yourself into working in a kitchen and regardless of your sex you need a tough skin. That being said if a woman or man goes into a chef job, if they have the skills and drive,  sex is not an issue IMO.

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post #3 of 21

Most of the woman I have worked with were very good, proffwssinal,and worked much cleaner then men. Some of best pastry chefs I know are woman.  But to work in a pro kitchen they must develop a bit of hardness or tough exterior so nothing bothers them

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post #4 of 21

Our kitchen is chock full o' women except for the Exec and a dishwasher. There is no whining, no drama, we do our jobs meticulously and cleanly though we do have the banter back and forth like normal kitchens have (Like 'Don't be a p**sy, just get some burn jel' kinda thing). We physically do everything a man can do, I even call myself a Clydesdale because I can lift or move anything.

 

I think that most women who get into this profession feel inside that they don't want to be viewed as inferior in any way so we go above and beyond. I even have a running joke with the dish, when I first started he called me Mami like everyone else and I said that in the kitchen I'm no Mami. Then he started calling me Lady and I said in the kitchen I am no lady, I am a woman. So now he calls me Woman!

post #5 of 21

I actually enjoy the dynamics of working in a kitchen with women (I'm not usually a fan of sausage parties anyway, but I digress :p). There was actually one place I worked at where I was the only guy with a lady head chef, pastry chef, and prep cook, and I actually learned a lot about food and cooking there, as well as had some of my biggest laughs ever. 

 

As mentioned as long as everyone has thick skin and aren't overly sensitive (this is androgynous) then everyone will be able to function like in any other work environment. I don't mind being asked to do the occasional heavy lifting and getting something down from a higher spot (I am man *flex*), because I know in turn others would help me when needed.

'A fool can't act the wise, but the wise can act a fool...' - Kweli

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'A fool can't act the wise, but the wise can act a fool...' - Kweli

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post #6 of 21

Lots and lots of women in the kitchen where I work.   Most of them are awesome and can do everything the men can do.  There are a couple who are constantly having to have things carried for them or use the "im a girl I cant do this" excuse, but I dont think they will last much longer and they are the exception, not the rule.    I really like having a varied team in the kitchen, it keeps things interesting.

post #7 of 21

In my current job I am, at the present time, the only male, although we did just hire a male dishwasher. At my last job, the crew working the line was split 50/50, prep was all female, dish was all male. In Caribbean, I had an all female crew (FOH & BOH) except for bartenders. When I owned my restaurant, over the 12 years, I would guess the split was roughly 50/50. So in my experience, in the last 20 years, hiring woman in the kitchen is fairly common place.

 

The previous 20 years, I remember the all male kitchens being more prevalent, but I also remember the same was true for the dining room as well!

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post #8 of 21

To be honest , i dont find them inferior to men at all.

Im a dude and my mentor/head chef is a female , probably one of the best i have met in a really long time as well. 

The only thing , that will make a women inferior int he kitchen is herself. In the kitchen i work there are 2 males and 4 females , aside from that we get everything out alot faster , and since im usually expiditing as well i usually tend to make the women work harder. 

Seriously gender , race , age , nor sexual orientation determine the cook , the food does in my opinion.

So no women cooks arent inferior nor better , it varies from person to person. But i will definitely admit that im happy and amazed at my mentor , and her gender has nothing to do with it. 

Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.

Dr.Seuss

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Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.

Dr.Seuss

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post #9 of 21

many woman Cooks and kitchen helpers here in Austria,  and  in my kitchen we have more women then men.   haha even one of the Cooks is more woman than man.

post #10 of 21

I suppose if I ran a super high volume place where you're moving lots of really heavy things around I may be less inclined to hire a petite female chef but otherwise no. Saying that though I probably think twice about hiring a petite male as well biggrin.gif

 

In my little restaurant I currently have no women in the kitchen but that's not a choice I made, I just haven't had any applying lately.

 

I've worked with some very good female chefs and some very bad ones that use their gender as an excuse for not pulling their weight, that's obviously unacceptable but in general I've found female chefs very hard working. I also think a female presence in the kitchen can be a healthy thing overall to tone the testosterone somewhat, it's a little weird being in an exclusively male environment for so much of your life if there are none.

 

I know some big companies I've worked for in the past have (unoffically) discouraged hiring women of a certain age because of the whole maternity leave thing. That must be different now though as I think you can elect for the man to take some of it as paternity leave anyway.

post #11 of 21
Thread Starter 

Lol I am fat (trying to lose at least ten pounds), but petite. Currently, I am the only woman in my kitchen (among the dinner crew anyway). I envy those (like laurenlulu) with more women in the kitchen. There is too much testosterone in mine. It would be a nice balance to have more females.

 

A lot of the sushi chefs that I know said they’d never hire women. I don’t know if this is something sushi chefs made up to keep women from invading their turf, but I’ve heard that “women have higher body temperatures than men,” which is not a good thing when handling raw fish. Hmm..I am no physiology expert and have no idea of the validity of this. I have also seen many talented female sushi chefs as well though. So, I personally lean more towards the theory that this concept is really the traditional male sushi chefs’ way of trying to keep women out of their game.

Also, I recall two incidences (about one or two years ago) when my gender played a role when applying for a job. After receiving my resume, I got a phone call. And the first thing the guy said was, “Oh..you are female. I thought you were male. We are specifically looking for a male employee since there is a lot of heavy lifting duties involved.” Had I shown up to the interview as a petite guy, they would have probably said, “Oh…we thought you were a bigger, stronger, well built guy” lol.

 

Another time, I was speaking to a gentleman at a company I was applying at, who said that I can apply but most likely the owner will not hire any females. She (the owner) has had some female workers in the past that were unable to handle the rigorous physical demands in their kitchen. And ever since, they have been reluctant to bring any females on board.

post #12 of 21

I have hired and worked with a number of females in the kitchen.  The problem that I have had time and time again is women seem to have a hard time with timing, caring and concentration on the job at hand.  Another problem these days is it seems that females have a harder time with shutting off their cell phones when they should be working.  One thing I hear the most is "I have kids, so the babysitter has to be able to get a hold of me, yet rarely is the call from the babysitter.  On a busy line, this just doesn't cut it and their position starts to drag the whole line down.  I am old school, so I believe that you are at a job to work and at the beginning of the week you have a zero balance and have to earn a paycheck, they aren't owed to you.  Women also seem to take a general comment harder than a male counterpart.  I will have to agree with the statement that women make better pastry chefs than men do.  One I had worked out great, she came in in the a.m. before anyone else and went to work, by herself and did her job exceptionally.  But of course, this was before the advent of the cell phone.  There are areas of the country where you have to hire what you can get and just deal with things the best you can.

post #13 of 21

Hideout, mom chefs who have one foot at work and one foot at home are one of my biggest pet peeves with female chefs as well, and I'm a female chef myself. I worked with a woman who always had to be on the phone with her sons school...or the babysitter, or her elderly mother. It was a little annoying to say the least, and it's bad reflection on other female chefs, such as myself who when at work the outside world ceases to exist. I tell my family... "do not call my job (I keep my cell phone in the car) unless someone is dying. If they're already dead, I can't do anything about it anyway, so wait till I get home." The only person that doesn't apply to is my husband.

 

But I would say the issues with cell phones overall I have found to be more problematic with guys. At least with guys of this generation who always have to check their FB accounts, or emails, and surprisingly text more than the dedicated female staff. Some even play video games on their phones. There was a guy I worked with who was always texting while I was busting my hump on the line. I finally had to tell the management because it was getting ridiculous. Whenever I envision him now I see a guy with his head down and both thumbs on a device. Another kid, who actually had his cell phone lugged into the kitchen near his station so he could check his emails and texts, was constantly beeping alerts. mad.gif

Enthusiastic female chefs who have something to prove (most of us do) will not even dream of touching our cell phones while at work. I think as you stated "There are areas of the country where you have to hire what you can get and just deal with things the best you can." is where the problem lies. Competitive locations and higher quality establishments won't allow such behavior from either men or female chefs.

“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations.”
Oscar Wilde

 

 

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“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations.”
Oscar Wilde

 

 

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post #14 of 21

Pollopicu

I was the management.  There was a rule about no cell phones and I have had a couple of guys that were a problem, but not to the extent of the problem with the women.  Things may have been different when I was not present, but, no one ever came to me to tell me that there was a problem with anyone using their cell phone. i know, I know most people don't want to rat out their fellow worker, but I always made it clear to people when I hired them that they could come to me with anything and it would never get out who had said anything.  Of course, these days cameras make a big difference, when someone wants to face their accuser, I just point at the camera.

I also had one female that sticks out in memory, she was horrible with her timing to the point she seemed like she either had no clue or just didn't care.  She also would walk by another station and flip some thing or add something and walk away and not say anything to anyone, that screws up either recipes or other peoples timing or both.

Another thing, although the pressure of a busy kitchen can break anyone, male or female, I have seen many more females break earlier.  They just can't handle the pressure as well.

post #15 of 21

It's unfortunate that those are the kind of women you have worked with... or who have worked for you. I'm not sure if it's a demographic issue, but I trained and worked in nyc, and most of the women I worked with were highly professional and a tough nut to crack. They really busted it because it's so competitive, and women really have to work above and beyond to prove themselves in this industry.

The only time I have experienced the type of women and men you're describing was when I worked in smaller (honky tonk) towns where they were just there for a "job" and a paycheck, and it's true, they couldn't give a hoot about the food or it's quality. Not to sound harsh, but I was so disgusted to be associated with them I quit the position. In order for me to feel that I'm part of something important I have to be surrounded by colleagues who take pride in their work.

 

Quote:

 

i know, I know most people don't want to rat out their fellow worker

Not me. If it affects my production and the quality of my food when I depend on them as a team player to pull their weight I will tell it on the mountain! lol.gif

 

If it doesn't affect my work they can hang upside down like a bat from the metro racks for all I care.

“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations.”
Oscar Wilde

 

 

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“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations.”
Oscar Wilde

 

 

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post #16 of 21
The first women I encountered in a kitchen was my grandmother and I'm now 75 so you do the math. In one word she was amazing. Today you would call her an executive chef but in those days she was the head cook. Working for her were four male cooks, a male baker, female pantry cook and a male cleanup crew. I grew up in all male kitchens as an apprentice chef. As a executive chef and food and beverage director my grandmothers legacy was strong and I hired the best whether male, female or undecided. My approach was amusing in Asia where I worked for 20 years.
post #17 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pollopicu View Post

It's unfortunate that those are the kind of women you have worked with... or who have worked for you. I'm not sure if it's a demographic issue, but I trained and worked in nyc, and most of the women I worked with were highly professional and a tough nut to crack. 

I would have loved to work with people that had the same passion about food that I have had all my life.  It's hard to work with people that could give a shit less about the food that was being put out.

Due to circumstances I have ended up back in the middle of Iowa  (Yes, I need to update my name, profile and everything) and it is even worse here than in Colorado where I just came from.  The attitudes here really suck, and I have just grill cooks to work with, and I am in Podunk, IA where it is as you stated, to them it's just a job and a paycheck.  I have a hard time convincing the owners to do some things as their line of thinking is they would have no one to do what I want to do if something happened to me.  It's very hard and frustrating to be held back from excelling. 

post #18 of 21

One of the guys I was describing who texts all the time was from Colorado! Of course I don't think all cooks from Colorado are like that, but it's funny we were talking about people who lack passion.

 

eta. I can imagine how frustrating it would be to have that passion and creativity inside yourself, and not have a true outlet for it. I'm sure it's made you think of moving.


Edited by Pollopicu - 4/23/13 at 7:17am
“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations.”
Oscar Wilde

 

 

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“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations.”
Oscar Wilde

 

 

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post #19 of 21

Ever worked in Boston? Most female friendly city for chefs anywhere, in the world possibly. Even in the outer-burbs female chefs are common. While I have no way to take a tally I would say females hold probably 33-40% of all head, sous or chef de cuisine positions. Oddly, the proportion of female line cooks is much lower. Maybe favoritism? Especially when most of the big kids on the block (Barbara Lynch, Jody Adams, Ana Sortun, Lydia Shire etc.) are women and promote feminism and are more apt to hire females.

 

Anyways, my experience with female line cooks is minimal but with female chefs (again why is that in Boston?) is great. All the female executive or management level chefs have been talented and smart (except for one sous who was NOT talented but smart and organized with the business aspect of it). All but one female line cooks I've worked with did not pull their weight, even the pastry chef. None was as good as one of the guys nor could do the grunt work. One saute lady was very good but it was a slower pace and a lot easier than most saute stations for a fine dining place, she did kick ass though. All I've worked with got away with attitudes that the guys would NEVER get away with and always cut corners in prep, cleaning and overall kitchen work. Not saying my experience with female chefs is bad just with the line cooks =)

post #20 of 21

Came across this interesting article....

 

http://www.gourmet.com/restaurants/2008/06/womenchefs

 

this one too:

http://nymag.com/restaurants/features/39595/

 

Quote:

 

Do women and men cook differently?
SJ: I think women cook different food, and I think women cook better food. It’s more from the heart and more from the soul. I look at this whole molecular-gastronomy thing, and I’m like, “Boys with toys.” They’re just fascinated with technology and chemistry sets. I think we make better-tasting food. I’m sorry, I know that’s politically incorrect.
RC: I have to agree. Women’s food is, for the most part, more accessible, it’s easier to understand, it’s friendlier, it’s more comforting, and it doesn’t get bogged down in all these nutty freaking trends.
SJ: I find there’s a lot of technique in male food.
AB: I have a friend from England who’s a cook, and he said the food that’s most moved him has always been cooked by a woman. Maybe because it’s comfort food or it’s very nurturing. JW: Or maybe he just liked the idea of a woman cooking for him.


Edited by Pollopicu - 4/28/13 at 8:53am
“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations.”
Oscar Wilde

 

 

Reply
“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations.”
Oscar Wilde

 

 

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post #21 of 21

This article is so true, I have been in this field as and executive chef for over 20 year's, and have worked in Higher Ed., I have been the only female chef in my district from Washington to Baltimore,  and when I am transfer and have to interview again they are harder on a female then a male so I have to be on my top notch.  When I go train another school, the employee's are so shocked when I walk in because they never seen a female chef before, not only a female but the only African American Female.  The male chefs think this is a field for male's and male's only, which I do not understand because for the longest female have  been cooking long before males.  And trust me they do make it easy for you. I have as much training as any male, from military, from 4 year's culinary school.  Female chefs are more organize, cleaner, and hard worker, and I speak for all female chefs we are not lazy.  So the writer that say they think we have come a long way, I can tell you we have not.  There are so many female who want to be in this field but do not have the tough skin to stick it out.

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