I grew up with women – lot’s of women. And they all cooked. My grandmother cooked for a 7 person household in an oven that was as big as your microwave. It was a very typical household – the women cooked, the kids set the table, and the men smoked. Seemed reasonable then.
My mom was a single parent, so it was just her and I. She cooked, I (sometimes) set the table, and she smoked. I liked to do the dishes and so did she – so she usually re-cleaned everything I didn’t manage to drop on the floor. She even grilled. We grilled out a ton. I was in charge of lighting the Weber grill, and we ran through lighter fluid faster than a 1970’s Ford LTD. I like – and continue to like fire.
When I started ‘helping’ in the kitchen, I was a seasoned vet. Rolling out dough for Christmas cookies, frying potatoes for breakfast, and mixing half a box pancake batter was always in my repertoire.
I thought only women cooked. The only professional chef that I knew on TV was Julia Child. Seemed to me it was ‘women’s work’. But as I got older that changed – almost every chef I knew of was a man. The white toques at the Sizzler were sitting atop men. The stained white aprons at the Chuck Wagon diner were worn by men. Even the Ice Cream man was in fact, a man.
It seems that an occupation that feeds and nurtures other human beings would be reserved for a gender that has those qualities engrained in their DNA – So, why is it then when we say, chef – It conjures up a picture of a man? Doctor, Lawyer, Barber, Bartender, CEO, President…man. Teacher, Nurse, Hairstylist, Secretary…woman.
With a clear movement in our industry of elevating women into roles such as chef, I wondered what exactly that would mean for the dynamics of the experience from a diner’s perspective, the kitchen environment, and how employees interact with each other. Are there still pans being thrown? Is the food different? What about the music? Are there more flowers?
In my next podcast – I ask three of Denver’s best chefs take on their experience. How did they get here? Why the fuck would they want to be here? Do they even LIKE to be referred to as a ‘Female Chef’ And, what kind of responses do they get when they reveal their occupation.
Listen to that conversation here.