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Female chefs and line cooks

post #1 of 31
Thread Starter 

Being a female in a (usually) male dominated kitchen definitely has it's ups and downs.  Having to explain- with very carefully chosen words- to male co-workers that, no, please don't hold that walk-in door open for me when I have a free hand, because I've got it.  Or, when I fix things, ya know, with tools and stuff, or open buckets for a newbie, the immediate rag fest on whatever said male for having a woman do it.  Sure, I can absolutely take whatever quips are thrown at me and return them, and make everyone crack up- because I have to.  Don't get me wrong, I can and have thrown down countless sixteens, back to back, and I do not, in any measure, think my work is lesser than my counterparts.  In fact, it's better.  Because it has to be.  Well, that, and I'm pretty fu*king good at food.

 

My question, to the wonderful forum I've found here, is this:  Does it ever stop?  Is there, at any point, any true acceptance from the male contingent? 

post #2 of 31

Yes,
 

Baruch ben Rueven / Chanaבראד, ילד של ריימונד והאלאן
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Baruch ben Rueven / Chanaבראד, ילד של ריימונד והאלאן
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post #3 of 31

Mayhem, sweetheart, some guys, me in particular, hold doors open just because it's a polite professional thing to do.   I also throw wisecracks completely unbiasedly at everyone regardless of sexuality, creed, race, religion et al.   If you've got skills, nothing else really matters, does it?   I take my good share of all the same being that I'm a short fat old guy.   Things lighten up really fast however, when I point out my ratio of dishes coming back to everyone else's.   Skills trump, and shut up the big mouths. 

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

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"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

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post #4 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mayhem View Post

Being a female in a (usually) male dominated kitchen definitely has it's ups and downs.  Having to explain- with very carefully chosen words- to male co-workers that, no, please don't hold that walk-in door open for me when I have a free hand, because I've got it.  Or, when I fix things, ya know, with tools and stuff, or open buckets for a newbie, the immediate rag fest on whatever said male for having a woman do it.  Sure, I can absolutely take whatever quips are thrown at me and return them, and make everyone crack up- because I have to.  Don't get me wrong, I can and have thrown down countless sixteens, back to back, and I do not, in any measure, think my work is lesser than my counterparts.  In fact, it's better.  Because it has to be.  Well, that, and I'm pretty fu*king good at food.

 

My question, to the wonderful forum I've found here, is this:  Does it ever stop?  Is there, at any point, any true acceptance from the male contingent? 

 

Hi fellow female cook :)

 

The guys you work with sound immature, which is unfortunately common in kitchens (some exceptions of course).

But it is my belief that it stops only when you stop putting so much emphasis on it. I know it's very difficult to think this way because we are indeed in a male dominated industry after all, but at least try to behave as if sex isn't an issue. That's how I've handled it throughout the years. When guys make stupid jokes, I behave as if I didn't hear anything, even if they casually toss it my way to see if they can get a smile out of me, and I certainly don't laugh or partake in any of the sexist bantering that goes on in the kitchen. I've refused to be "one of the guys" to fit in. I am me, and I don't want to be them. Dear God, I don't want to be them...

 

I honestly believe you can create a niche that's unique to yourself being a female chef/cook that doesn't require being one of the guys that will earn you respect. It's my belief that when a female cook attempts to be one of the guys she's lowering and not honoring her true self, unless of course she's a tomboy and enjoys being one of the guys, which is totally fine too. I just don't believe we have to change who we are, especially if that means being something lesser to fit in. Not with slobs like that. If I'm going to change myself, I'm going to try to imitate a mentor, someone I admire, not some greasy line cook or chef who "rags" on women.

 

 

Take everything I say with a grain of salt. I've worked with some doozies, so there is definitely an undertone of bitterness in my advice. lol

 

 

Well, I hope I didn't offend anyone. lol.gif

“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 #5 of 31

Pollopicu - has the right idea and says it much better.

 

Don't stoop to their level is another way to say it.

 

Some phrases that i've seen stop juvenile antics include...

 

- Does your mother know you talk that way?

- What does your wife have to say about that?

- Is that what you tell your daughter?

 

Shuts them up in a hurry.

 

------

 

About the walk-in door though ... it's nothing personal (sexist)  I hold it open for anyone who comes by... usually I close it with my foot and it only takes one mistake before you always hold it open.  (slammed the FoH GM's hand in it once... she tried to catch it as I closed it... ouch - I felt really really bad.  She was a trooper and didn't complain but it was ballooned up and purple for a week.  I felt like a total idiot.)

Now I just hold it open if there is anyone in the room.

----

 


"Plus, this method makes you look like a complete lunatic. If you care about that sort of thing".  - Dave Arnold

 

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----

 


"Plus, this method makes you look like a complete lunatic. If you care about that sort of thing".  - Dave Arnold

 

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post #6 of 31

Thanks Michael.

 

Like MGA, I don't think opening doors is sexist. I would do it for them as well. That's just being a good colleague. If someone sees my arms are super full and doesn't bother opening the door for me (if they're passing or on their way out) because I'm a woman, then I would think "what a jerk".

“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 #7 of 31
Thread Starter 
Thanks, everyone! When I first started, years ago, I definitely went hard and mean, because I thought it was the only way to get respect. And, as time went on, the balance of firm but kind has definitely gotten easier. I calmy draw lines, when needed, and blow off a lot of stuff that at the end of the day just isn't that important.

I was just super frustrated last night- a new guy got hired, and I'm the first female he's ever worked with. Thanks for letting me blow off some steam.

Sidenote: It's going to take a lot more than calling me "sweetheart" to get a rise out of me ;-)
post #8 of 31
good day mayhem,
I'm late to this party, but just wanted to add;
yes it does...does it take work? Constantly. Is it always easy? Nope, almost never. you already know all this though.
As Allison Pearson wrote and SJP spoke in 'I don't know how she does it',
"Trying to be a man is a waste of a woman". I'll add that it's a waste of a GOOD woman. I've always said that to be female in a working kitchen one must have nerves of steel and good shoes.
So, how are your shoes?
Your latest little whippersnapper is lucky to have you as his 'first'..he just doesn't know it yet....would love to be there to see his expression when he finally does realize it......that picture would be worth a few thousand words!!!
I just came out of a kitchen with 12 non English speaking mostly macho Mexicans. Although I was the pastry chef, i was still the 'token white female'...made for interesting times for sure. wink.gif

joey

food is like love...it should be entered into with abandon or not at all        Harriet Van Horne

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food is like love...it should be entered into with abandon or not at all        Harriet Van Horne

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post #9 of 31

I   WAS   JOKING!!!

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

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"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

Reply
post #10 of 31
[
Edited by rbrad - 5/26/13 at 1:08am
post #11 of 31
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by durangojo View Post

good day mayhem,
I'm late to this party, but just wanted to add;
yes it does...does it take work? Constantly. Is it always easy? Nope, almost never. you already know all this though.
As Allison Pearson wrote and SJP spoke in 'I don't know how she does it',
"Trying to be a man is a waste of a woman". I'll add that it's a waste of a GOOD woman. I've always said that to be female in a working kitchen one must have nerves of steel and good shoes.
So, how are your shoes?
Your latest little whippersnapper is lucky to have you as his 'first'..he just doesn't know it yet....would love to be there to see his expression when he finally does realize it......that picture would be worth a few thousand words!!!
I just came out of a kitchen with 12 non English speaking mostly macho Mexicans. Although I was the pastry chef, i was still the 'token white female'...made for interesting times for sure. wink.gif

joey

 

I should get a better pair of shoes, now that you mention it.  Shoes made of steel, and ass-kickery. 

 

-Val

post #12 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mayhem View Post

 

My question, to the wonderful forum I've found here, is this:  Does it ever stop?  Is there, at any point, any true acceptance from the male contingent? 

Just as long as you show up in proper attire, work just as hard as the men, don't complain, and don't take to blowing the line for recreation you have my respect. I've dealt with WAY to many fembots that show up and whine the day away, taking more breaks than anyone etc. Even one who decided she was going to no tie her hair back as she had just gotten a perm!

post #13 of 31

I honestly feel gender has nothing to do in the kitchen. 

The head chef at my kitchen is a female and one of the best chefs i have ever worked with. I love her and she considers me her pupil , i really dont know where i would be without her. 

 

Anyway she has always told me that being a female in the kitchen can be tough , but it should only make you work harder to prove the sexist a-holes they are wrong. Skill isnt measured through gender thats for sure. 

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 #14 of 31
I think I've been lucky in that I've never had the sexist stuff thrown at me. Holding the door open is just being polite and I do it for any co worker no matter what their gender is.

The place I am at now, there is alot of ribbing etc that gets thrown my way but I give as good as I get and they all know that.

At the end of the day it's all about how you do your job and how you fit into the kitchen.
OK ... where am I going?.. and WHY am I in this handbasket??
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post #15 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by kingfarvito View Post

Just as long as you show up in proper attire, work just as hard as the men, don't complain, and don't take to blowing the line for recreation you have my respect. I've dealt with WAY to many fembots that show up and whine the day away, taking more breaks than anyone etc. Even one who decided she was going to no tie her hair back as she had just gotten a perm!


That one who refused to tie her hair back reminds me of a co worker. She's the break nazi.. has to have her breaks on time no matter where we are in our work, and refuses to tuck her bangs completely under her hairnets as it 'looks ugly"! Hmm... Last time I checked we work in a food factory not a beauty salon. And as for the breaks... I take one in the morning when it is a good time ( between tasks ) and then lunch when the time allows. We're supposed to take an afternoon break but I usually tack it onto my lunch and then work for the rest of the day. If we're swamped then I take my lunch and get back at it and break if I can and if I can't it's not the end of the world..
OK ... where am I going?.. and WHY am I in this handbasket??
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post #16 of 31

breaks?...what do you mean, breaks? I don't understand..

“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 #17 of 31
I will get the walk in door if someone has something in their hands and are in front of me. male or female if you can open the door then open it. The kitchen i work in we all have a good time and get the job done. we joke around we each other but we dont direspect each other. now in public i still open the door for women and just about anyone really out of habit. But i do say yes mam and sir a lot at work to everyone but thats how we do it in Virginia.
post #18 of 31

I've been cooking in professional kitchens since '85 and never had that much of a problem. I've had both men and women who take too many breaks, refuse to wear their hats or hair nets, etc etc. 

 

We generally teach people how to treat us and I'm wondering if they're doing this because they know it gets to you? (If you don't want people to get your goat, don't tell them where it's tied).

 

I've found the best way to deal with guys opening doors or offering to lift something is to thank them or say 'let's lift it together'. And I in turn open doors for them and if I see them lifting something heavy offer to help and warn them that they don't want to hurt their backs or feet by trying to be 'too manly' doing it by themselves, and remind them that it only takes one time to screw up their backs for good. 

My response when they 'rag fest' about a woman doing this-or-that would likely be to ask the 'ringleader' nicely if he's just insecure that his other manly qualities don't measure up and opening a bucket is all he has, etc.. maybe even make a joke of it and carry buckets to him throughout the day and ask him to open them.. tell him you're trying to bolster his self-esteem. He'll either take it well and go along with the joke, or he'll get offended and embarrassed, but either way you will have let him and everyone else know that they're not going to get the reaction they're used to getting. :)

 

And keep it all light and fun and don't ever let 'em know you're mad. ;)

 

maybe that will help?

post #19 of 31
I work in a food production facility and we are required to take our breaks. HR pretty much insists on it. It took a long time for me to get used to, actually having more than a run to the washroom or a few minutes while I scarfed back a sandwich.
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OK ... where am I going?.. and WHY am I in this handbasket??
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post #20 of 31
I have found that as long as I can grind like my male counterparts, enjoy being in the weeds and pull my own weight in the kitchen. I'm cool and the guys treat me as just another real one. Girl, who cares if they open the door, let them because that lexan of red potatos is heavy! Turn and burn love, you got this regardless
post #21 of 31
danigrlcatering ..... WELCOME to ChefTalk.





The post before yours was over 3 years ago. It's OK ... everyone has done it.

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

Reply

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

Reply
post #22 of 31

my executive chef is a women and I have nothing but respect for her...she rocks

post #23 of 31
I'm a male sous in a kitchen with a lot of strong women. My chef is a younger woman who kicks ass. We get along great. 2 of my owner/bosses are women and they regularly work circles around me. I am in awe of all of them. Same goes for the younger FOH girls who help out with prep, work the dish pit, put away deliveries, answer the phone and make me drinks after shift. Our restaurant would be nowhere without them.

Funny story... Just the other day one of our owners sons was working in the kitchen. He's thirteen. We had him wash lettuce, peel carrots and potatoes, that sort of thing. He got tired of menial labour and says aloud "don't you have any manly jobs I could do?" Our baker, a middle aged woman with years of experience under her belt puts down her tools and says "look! You need to let go of that kind of thinking because that's not the way it works in the kitchen, or in life!" He almost cried. It was amazing. And guess what? He came back to work the other day with a better attitude. She taught him something he hopefully won't forget. We joke with him now about the manliness of tipping beans, and he gets the joke!

In my experience, women are my allies, mentors, students and besties! I wouldn't have it any other way. Maybe I'm blessed.
post #24 of 31
I'm starting to have a shelf life, I have no problem asking the kids to bring up the sacks of flour and sugar now.
Back in the day, I wouldn't dream of asking for help
Yes to opening doors regardless of gender, and pickle buckets have buried a line in the hands of a novice so yes to helping when necessary.

Off topic, too many choices for profile descriptions... I'm leaning towards 'can't boil water' and see if anyone notices
post #25 of 31
 

If your job is to lift, push, pull, or in anyway manhandle things, then it's your job. Male or female. However, we in society understand that some people are physically weaker in ways that are protected by law, and we should acknowledge that.

 

As a younger person/cook, I was always of the opinion that I did not need help from males. And I was right that I could heft quite alot, mostly from sheer will and by leveraging my strength. 

 

I still think that our industry is fine for physically fit males and females.

 

One interesting side note re opening doors for females...I remember one instance of riding on a bus in Boston. I observed a heavily pregnant woman standing, swaying. All seats were filled by men. She was hanging on, clearly uncomfortable, probably just wanting a break to rest. No men stood up. In fact I gave up my seat, and asked her to sit in the seat.

post #26 of 31
I'm FOH, so you may take this with the amount of grain of salt you feel appropriate.
I worked with my city's only female executive chef, and I can say that I wouldn't mess with her.
post #27 of 31

I love these resurrected threads.

I like to go back and read the OP and 3 year old posts to see how they evolved.

 

All of us work in a kitchen unlike any others. No 2 are alike. Kitchens are filled with an assortment of personalities.

That's what this is all about anyway....a group of people trying to come together with a purpose, that being, cooking and preparing food.

Societal differences exist in any group.  

There is still going to be people out there that, for whatever reason, can not accept others, and will go out of their way to become an obstacle, or to create havoc, just for their own enjoyment.

The answer then would be "no" it doesn't get better.

post #28 of 31
I have been a Chef in many fine dining kitchens and I always hire at least one bad ass female cook/ Chef. They just bring something to the Kitchen that guys don't seem to.
post #29 of 31

My chef is female, and I know for a fact that my kitchen couldn't function without her. She's not just the backbone of the kitchen, either, but the team as well. Her attitude and personality are the absolute foundation of the kitchen, and all of the cooks not only gladly step up to help, but trust without reservation that she has their backs.

 

In reality, though, this is largely by design. Her and I have, over the course of the last two years, been cultivating a team that we know we can trust to get the job done *while also* not singling her out as the only woman of the group. It's taken time and effort, but I'm proud to say that we have a team that sees her as a cook and leader before they even think about the fact that she's the only girl in the kitchen.

 

It probably helps that we're also a very young kitchen (average age is about 28), that caters to a younger demographic and is in a more progressive part of town, so we're not really dealing with a whole lot of "old hats" who do things because they're traditional.

 

Final answer: social engineering. There's a lady in charge, and anyone that is going to have a problem with that or make a big deal out of it probably wouldn't mesh well with the rest of the team any way.

post #30 of 31

Every person is so very different. I love seeing how we interact. Sometimes it can be tough NOT to perceive crap slinging in my direction as guys be chauvinist a-hole pigs when they see me busting my bum right along with them. Most of the time it's in good fun. However some people are just A-holes. There's nothing we can do about it. We shouldn't let it retract from what we bring to the restaurant and we should absolutely relish the good around us and NOT let it diminish the love of what we do, who we are, why we are there. Your boss has you there because they know you deserve to be there or they'd cut you loose. So bring it. Do your job. And rise to the occasion. If we are not challenged and challenging our peers how will we become champions?!?! 

 

I'd really like to know as a woman who's been cooking for almost a decade what y'all perceive that we bring to the kitchen. I absolutely see that I relate differently to others than my male counterparts. I listen more. They come to me more. I tend to be looking after our young cooks while NOT holding their hands because they don't need it. I know my kitchens like having me BUT why? I am just me. Compliments are rarer than double yolk eggs in a kitchen. Lots of chefs say they always want at least one strong female chef in their kitchen. Why is that? Seems hard to put into words. What does a female bring that is unique? 

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