Sep 25, 2007

Top Chef 3: The sexes in the professional kitchen

When I wrote my previous post I had not read Gail Simmons' blog. It's amazing how I echoed her sentiments about female chefs. The war of sexes in the kitchen rages on. Here are her calm reasoned comments. She is obviously speaking from experience, whereas I was shooting from the hip:

Another notable issue in this Quickfire was that of gender. Casey touched upon it when she entered the Le Cirque kitchen and I have to add my point of view. Many years ago, upon graduating from culinary school, I was sent out into the world of New York restaurants and decided my first stop would be Le Cirque, in its previous location at the New York Palace Hotel. I was just an apprentice and was initially assigned to the hot appetizer, pasta, and risotto station. Although I learned an enormous amount, I was the only female in a kitchen consisting of well over 40 people, from dishwashers to sauciers. It was a very difficult place to work. Along with the obvious physical stresses that any kitchen imposes, there was an undercurrent that made me feel as if I had to prove myself just a little more than everyone else because I was a girl.

Could I have imagined it? I used to think so. But now I know Casey noticed it too. It appears as though not much has changed since I was there, judging from her experience. And do not think I believe this is by any means an anomaly. It pains me to think that even in 2007, most top kitchens in the country are still heavily male dominated.

As Peachpie pointed out in the comment section of my previous post, (thank you for the tip, dahling), here is Robert M.'s answer.Talk about making a mountain out of a mole hill!


Why the constant feminist rants? It's really getting tired and annoying. The simple fact is, being a chef or a line cook in a top restaurant is physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding and brutal and men, by simple luck of nature, are IN GENERAL (NOT ALWAYS) better suited to the task.

I especially don't understand how someone like you, who's been fortunate enough to work in some of the greatest kitchens, can implicity accuse the entire industry of being sexist and misogynistic. To me it's a copout and an excuse. If you want to continue to use this forum as an outlet of your own personal agenda, you better back it up.



Doralong said...

Robert M can grind that axe elsewhere.. and wouldn't that little rant of yours point out exactly what Gail was saying? Humm???

I've been a line bitch, thank you very much. I have a sister that's an executive chef- it's not easy being the chick in the kitchen. And how the hell would you know? No pun intended, but you've got to be able to dish it out, as well as take it and work twice as hard to be taken seriously.

RVA Foodie said...

That guest judge really showed his arse during the challenge when he openly stated that he's attracted to Casey, but would have to choose Hung as the winner. I'm sure he was trying to be complimentary and charming, but what the hell does one appetite have to do with the other during judging? In a restaurant, the chef generally stays in the back of the house no matter how they look.

One could argue that he was implying that he didn't want to be accused of being impartial so he chose to descriminate the other way around. WTF? How about if he said to Hung, "I think your people have a lot of potential and you do make a good bowl of noodles, but for me Casey is the image of fine dining." My point is that the dude clarified, in case we didn't all know that this continues to be the order of business in the culinary world: First you are seen as a woman, then as a chef.

Prediction: Casey wins the whole competition and the gender issue will be inseparable from the outcome (for her fans and her critics).

Anonymous said...

Men--they just don't get it do they? I have worked in a male dominated industry and been one of the few women in a management capacity. I've been talked over in meetings, ignored, ridiculed (they call it teasing--but they don't do it to each other in the middle of a business meeting now do they?!) and so on and so on. I made it a point early on NOT to always see it as a gender issue but rather something I was conveying as myself not just as a woman. Another words-blame me first, my gender second. And men are so surprised to be confronted with actual examples of bias. I was up for a promotion once and my boss was really pushing for me to get it. He thought I was really qualified etc. etc. After he spoke with a vice president he came back stunned saying that they weren't going to give me the job because I was a woman. (I know-could of sued-but what the heck) My boss just couldn't get over it. I was like-yeah tell me something new.

she said...

i cannot cook unless i have the entire kitchen to myself. if my space gets crowded i cant continue! i dont know that casey is my favorite...although, and ive only been watching recently, she owned the responsibility for some screw up which was good of her...and her temperment seems to be even.

Anonymous said...

Good points all around.

It's unfortunate that Robert M chose to attack Gail for pushing her "agenda," as opposed to actually addressing the points that she made. I really hate it when people refuse to discuss the issues at hand and simply dismiss them as "feminist rants," simply because the statements come from a woman.

It's so frustrating to watch this sort of ideological dismissal happen again and again in every arena - be it politics (where ideas are dismissed because they come from a "typical bleeding-heart liberal" or a "right-wing fundamentalist") or elsewhere.

Gail makes a lot of good points based on her personal experience. I think that in many professions, women must work twice as hard to get the same respect as men - the office world is often quite the boys' club.

To simply attack Gail on an ideological level is the coward's way. It cheapens what could turn into a real debate and discussion about WHY the culinary world (and other professions) is like this, and what can be done to remedy the problem.

Marius said...

This is a very controversial issue. I've commented on my blog that Bravo has to start recruiting better female chefs. But I guess that's a totally different issue. As for Gail's comment, I think she has every right to share her thoughts and experiences with the viewers. Robert M's comments are very troubling. If he thinks that equality of the sexes has been achieved, then someone has to slap some sense into that guy. Women are still struggling to succeed in a male dominated-world.

ArtfulSub said...

I'd have to read Gail's Blog to find out if Robert's rant has any basis in reason. And her blog is just too BORING for me to pursue that investigation.

I do think her comparing HER situation to working Female Chefs is a bit absurd.

Let's face it. Gail's the child of VERY wealthy parents who dabbled a bit in the culinary world after majoring in something else at McGill.

Comparing THAT situation to a Woman who actually had to EARN A LIVING in the kitchen is a real stretch.

Ms. Place said...

Still, she makes a valid point, Art. As for Marius, you are right! You began talking about this subject in your blog on July 16th. I wish I knew how to link to it from this comment section, but here is the URL to your July posts.

Thanks, Marius - and everyone - for continuing this debate. Like RVA foodie, I was a little offended that Casey received a backhanded sexist compliment. Women are not treated as equals yet - and over fifty % of us know this as a fact.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting on this, Ms. Place! I'm glad I'm not the only one who had a reaction to what Robert M. said.

And yes, doralong, his rant DID point out exactly what Gail was saying. Exactly.

I was outraged.

Anonymous said...

"being a chef or a line cook in a top restaurant is physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding and brutal"

I'd like to see this jerk try giving birth to a 10 lb kid without anesthesia!

And, fyi, I too, doralong, was a line bitch. I was NEVER out done by my male counter parts.

eric3000 said...

It's amazing to me that there are people who simply pretent that bias doesn't exist.