A Woman’s Place in the Kitchen

“Only men have the technique, discipline and passion that makes cooking consistently an art”.

Ferdinand Point

Women have a hard time working on equal footing with men in a professional kitchen. Line cooks  shudder at the thought of working the pantry station and justifiably so – that’s a woman’s station, safe, away from the heat, away from all the action. Like it or not , “the back of the house” is still an old men’s club ,where women are traditionally hired to work primarily in the pastry kitchen or in garde manger.

 Am I lying ?

 Have I upset you ?

I ‘ve worked in enough kitchens and seen it myself. Ask yourself this question. Have you ever worked the hot line with a female line cook?  Better  yet, have you ever stopped for a moment to watch as she puts pan to flame in the middle of the 7:30 dinner rush.

Women cook differently from their male counterparts.

The motions are not the same –  the rhythm is subtle, less aggressive in cadence and tempo. Almost intuitively, women tend to be more fluid in cooking style. It’s graceful, the moves are more orchestrated,  their is a connection from the pan hits the flame that remains until the plate hits the pass.

  Men are polar opposites

They cuss the stove, jiggle the handles, bang pots, grab plates, as if by sheer will – the beurre blanc will reduce faster, the halibut will sear more evenly… rush, push, rush…

Honestly,  I have a deep respect for my female counterparts.  Being a cook is not easy. Cooking professionally is not easy. To do it, and do it well, takes years of dedication and physical toil. Cooks work with sharp instruments, boiling liquids, extreme heat and extreme cold. It is presumptuous of men to think that women  are unable to withstand the the rigors of working a hot line. And even more so, to promote based on gender instead of talent, attitude and the dogged determination to work hard.

Some of the best chefs that I have worked for are women.

staff


Some of the toughest , hardest hitting, pan slinging cooks I’ve had the pleasure to work beside are women. The dynamic of the modern kitchen is changing, championed in part by chefs like Alice Waters ( widely credited for defining California’s cuisine), Cat Cora ( Iron Chef) , Cristeta Comerford ( first female executive chef at the White House), Clare Smyth (Head Chef at the three Michelin starred Restaurant Gordon Ramsay). The classic idea of a “chef ” as male is changing. The army and the professional kitchen share many similarities. Like the military, a  kitchen’s culture and traditions have  evolved to encompass a more liberal point of view and move forward with changes in our habits and tastes.However, unlike dance it’s forced to change with our habits and tastes. As such, “a woman’s place in the kitchen” is no longer barred because of male chauvinism. We stand shoulder to shoulder, prep together, work together, laugh together and most importantly share our passion for craft.

 

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