Male chefs on why there are so few females in professional kitchens -Writer Thao Ly Nguyen takes a closer look

The Staff Canteen

Writer Thao Ly Nguyen takes a closer look at the Munchies article: We asked male chefs why there are so few females in professional kitchens.

According to a Munchies article: We Asked Male Chefs Why There Are So Few Females in Professional Kitchens, having few females in professional kitchens is to do with classic gender stereotypes.

>>> Read the full Munchies article here

quote male chefsThe male chefs they questioned – all head chefs or higher ranking – suggest that the lack of women in restaurant kitchens is because women are unable to do it, find the work too hard, and quit because there are other things they’d rather do like have children.

“I think it's mainly because we work long hours, ten to 12 hours a day. Men can continue a little longer than women” said Dennis Trappenburg, chief cook at GYS in Rotterdam to Munchies.

Daniel Lansbergen, cook at Kafé België in Utrecht, had a similar view and said to Munchies “standing for 12 hours straight is more difficult for a woman, because women are just built differently”.

“You start as a dishwasher, and that means doing the dirty job first,” explains Renee Heijnen, chief cook at Restaurant Muziekcafé 't Oude Pothuys in Utrecht to Munchies. “Girls don't want that. […] Women just want to be home in the evening and care for the children, rather than sweat in a kitchen.”

The problem with this article does not only lie in the rather archaic assumption of women and what they want, but it is also strange that the writer decided not to ask women why there are so few women in the kitchen. Instead, men were questioned even though they may not necessarily know why there are so few women in the kitchen. Instead, men were questioned even though they may not necessarily know the answer, a point which Michael O’hare quickly questioned on Twitter.

Last month, The Staff Canteen spoke to numerous successful women in the industry, so let’s see what they have to say about being in the kitchen.

Freddie Janssen - Yucatan Pickles. Pic credit Helen Cathcart

Freddie Janssen - Yucatan Pickles.

Pic credit Helen Cathcart 

"I think there is this whole idea around macho culture, but I feel like that has become very old fashioned," said Freddie Janssen, founder of F.A.T. Pickles.

Margot Henderson, respected chef, cookery writer and co-founder of Clerkenwell’s Rochelle Canteen said “I was very strong in the kitchen. I could do as many shifts as anyone else. I was fast. I wasn’t weak and afraid of the hard work at all. It’s not an easy job, you’ve got to be prepared to stand up, lift things and get burns.”

Chef, sommelier and founder of Bubbledogs Sandia Chang admitted that “life and work balance needs to be addressed but at the same time we cannot cover up the fact that this industry takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice to get to places you want to go.”

This is not something that only female chefs struggle with. Just read our blogpost by Brian Powlett, head chef at the Greyhound Ipswich and Knife of Brian Cookery & Catering, about the difficulties of dating or rather being married to a chef.
“You’ll be wrestling with their employer for quality time”, Brian explains.

On top of the general hardship that comes with the job, there are instances when female chefs just don’t get the respect their title demands.

“Men always find it hard for me to tell them what to do,” said Margot. “I have to convince them that I am right. I want the onions sliced like this and they go, ‘oh really?’ and I have to say, ‘look, this is my place and you do it how I want it’.”

Bonny Porter low res.jpg.640x480 q80
Bonny Porter

>>> Related: International Women’s Day: Celebrating Female Chefs

Bonny Porter, founder and executive chef of Balls & Company, said “you do have to fight that much harder, work that much longer to get where you want to be. It’s almost unspoken, no one ever says you need to work harder, or that you can’t be in that section because you’re a girl, but intuitively you know you need to fight tooth and nail to make any headway.”

So the reasons listed in the Munchies article have certainly been debunked by the accounts of successful women in the industry we’ve spoken to, let’s leave the final words to Bonny…

“Gender inequality is a very real issue particularly amongst chefs,” said Bonny. “With female chefs, woefully, few and far between. I think it’s time we celebrated those who do fight to be seen and make their mark in this profession.”

by Thao Ly Nguyen

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 4th April 2017

Male chefs on why there are so few females in professional kitchens -Writer Thao Ly Nguyen takes a closer look