Michelin Guide UK 2022: Sally Abé and Romy Gill call out the lack of women and diversity on this year's list

The Staff Canteen

Last year, two female-led restaurants were awarded three Michelin stars in the Michelin Guide for Great Britain and Ireland 2021Core by Clare Smyth and Hélène Darroze at The Connaught. But this year, despite 19 new one star restaurants, five new two stars and a new three star, not a single new star or award was given to a female chef

In an interview on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, chefs Romy Gill MBE and consultant chef at The Pem restaurant Sally Abé spoke about the importance for the guide to question its attitude towards women and diversity in general so as to improve the balance in the industry rather than stand still.

Sally is the consultant chef at The Pem inside the Conrad London St James Hotel, held a Michelin star at the Harwood Arms pub until she left to open The Pem last year. Named after the suffragette Emily Wilding Davison, the restaurant has a female-led team keen to create a working culture that's far removed from the shouty, intense kitchens of old.

She said: "Proportionally there are many more male chefs than female chefs in the UK, but it’s just a shame to see Michelin not recognising, not just women, but diversity in general across the board when there are so many people doing such amazing things in the UK at the minute."

When asked by the interviewer, Nick Robinson, if it could be due to the outdated idea of what head chefs are perceived as being 'a bit of a bully', Sally said that she hopes being a bully has nothing to do with getting accolades, but that "systems perpetuate themselves. If nobody within the Michelin community or business has questioned their attitude towards women and diversity, then nothing is going to change."

Romy, the former chef-owner of Romy's Kitchen in Bristol and cookbook author who was awarded an MBE in the Queen's 90th Birthday Honours list, added: "It’s just not about hospitality, as a general in restaurants, if you look at TV, if you look at radio, if you look at anywhere, writing or publications are always about men. Then when it comes to women of colour there is very very little.”

"You have to fight your corner to be in it. Why should I have to become a man to be noticed? I’m a woman. I’m good at what I do. I have fought to be called a chef and I don’t want to want to be called a female chef. I also want to be known as a chef who’s good at what she is doing."

Should the gender of the chef even matter or if it should only be about their skill?

Yes, according to Sally, who said: “I think what’s the important thing we should care about is equality and I think until there's a 50/50 balance then yes we should care and yes we should continue to promote women. Definitely.”

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 18th February 2022

Michelin Guide UK 2022: Sally Abé and Romy Gill call out the lack of women and diversity on this year's list