Anna Haugh: "the most heartbreaking thing is when men believe that we don’t belong somewhere"

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor

Earlier this week, we spoke to Anna Haugh about her plans for her new restaurant, Myrtle. As this week is also International Women’s Day, we asked her to tell us what she thinks is stopping more women from reaching high ranking positions in the kitchen.

She explained that for her, nothing physical is preventing women from being successful chefs but that 'the most heartbreaking thing is when men believe that we don’t belong somewhere'.

Anna said: "It’s really heartbreaking because kind, lovely, wonderful men sometimes say shit like that."

She cited chef Tom Kerridge, who, in 2014, said he wasn’t sure being a chef was the right industry for women to be successful in.

At the time, he said that although having ‘girls’ in the kitchen brings the testosterone level down, 'at the same point a lot of that fire in a chef’s belly you need, because you need them to force themselves to be ready for dinner service', and that this may be why there weren’t very many women in top-ranking positions.

The chef said that the pressure and intensity could be too much to bear for a lot of men as well, and that he saw a lot of them 'do a runner' from The Hand and Flowers.

Speaking with The Staff Canteen, Anna said: “It’s so insulting to say that it’s our fault that we’re not successful, that we don’t actually have the ability to succeed.”

“If you’re the best chef in the world and you’re cooking beside mediocre people, you won’t actually fulfil your potential.”

She said this kind of attitude was damaging to the industry.

The problem, she said, is that a lot of male chefs haven’t worked around enough female chefs, and that attitudes would be different if they did.

“Once he's worked around women I think he is the type of character to be like ‘fuck I was wrong,’ because he's a nice man.  It's just a lot of ignorance and a lot of confusion and misleading information that makes it harder to be heard.

“It is a hard industry, you have to be able to hold your own. You have to be able to go, ‘no, fuck you, not true.’ If you can't do that you will end up just being broken by it.”

199A7418 2So how  does a chef become the best in the world?

For this, you must compete with the best in the world, Anna explained.

“If you’re the best chef in the world and you’re cooking beside mediocre people, you won’t actually fulfil your potential.

“There might be one in a million like Massimo who’re able to smash all barriers and moulds, but most people will only fulfil their potential if they’re in the right environment for them to flourish.”

She added: "I think female chefs have got to be seen just as a chef, and then those who are able will [be successful] and those who aren’t won’t.”

Anna explained that when she told her father she wanted to be a chef, he begged her not to do it, fearing it was too male dominated and that it would be a disrespectful, vulgar environment for a woman to be in.

This was despite him saying she could do anything she set her mind to: “He’d always been like ‘anything you want to be in life, your mammy and I will be there. We will make sure, no matter what, you become what you want to become.’ Now what he meant was a doctor, or a brain surgeon.”

For Anna, encouraging more women in the industry will take putting more women in the spotlight.

“I think the more women you see in senior chef roles, talked about and filmed, on social media in a positive light, the more women that will go ‘I think I could be her, I could do that.’"

Written by Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

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Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 6th March 2019

Anna Haugh: "the most heartbreaking thing is when men believe that we don’t belong somewhere"