Top female chefs speak out about new figures showing 'a decline in women in professional kitchens'

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 25th February 2016

At a time when the 'chef shortage' is a serious issue with in the industry, it's worrying to see data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) revealing fewer than one in five chefs in the UK (18.5%) is a woman.

The Staff Canteen spoke to Northcote's Lisa Allen and The Kingham Plough's Emily Watkins to find out if they agree with these figures and research which indicates woman are 'unsure if they would stay' in the industry. 

A good kitchen porter is priceless says Kingham Plough's chef proprietor Emily Watkins

Hospitality recruiter, The Change Group, recently carried out a survey of over 508 experienced female chefs to gauge their opinion on working in the industry. Almost two in five of those women who took part said they would leave the industry, or were unsure if they would stay. But why is this?

Emily Watkins, chef proprietor at The Kingham Plough, suggested the lack of female chefs could be due to the wider avenues people can take within the industry nowadays.

Emily told The Staff Canteen: "There’s so much more than just being a chef now, if you look at these famous bloggers and food writers most of them are women so I think that could explain part of the decline. If you wanted to be involved in cooking food before you would have to go in to a restaurant but now there are other options."

The same survey also revealed one in four of those surveyed has children with 52 per cent suggesting more flexible working hours would make it easier for women to pursue their career as a chef long term.

A mother of one, Lisa Allen, executive head chef at Northcote says she's learning to juggle being a chef and raising a family but believes managing her time better and having a better overall structure has helped.

Lisa said: "I’ve got a young son and it is difficult but if you are determined and structured you can achieve what you want to achieve."lisa allen northcote

She continued: "My son is only one and it’s hard, you have to change things and you do need a good stable family behind you. I think managing and structuring your time is the biggest thing because ultimately I think it makes you a better person if you’re structured and you can manage your time properly. It’s better for your team and it’s better for yourself as well."

Lisa also argues that she thinks there are already plenty of women in the industry who are merely just overlooked.

She said: "I think there’s more women coming out now but I also think there’s more women in the industry than you think. There’s a lot of people behind the stove that are missed and unnoticed. I think there’s a few more now than what there were and hopefully there will be more. "

She added: "People’s lifestyles are changing so a lot of restaurants are now only doing four days or are closed for lunch or they're shut for two days. You can see that there’s a staff shortage out there and people are acting on it and that could be a big reason for why there are less women in the industry."

Craig Allen, director of The Change Group also thinks the shortage is putting off potential female chefs from entering the industry. female chef quote

Craig said: "Given the continuing dire chef shortage, it is a huge concern that we are potentially putting off female talent.

"Employers need to look at how to offer greater flexibility to enable both men and women to juggle work and family, and potentially tailor roles to make it easier for women to become and stay chefs.”

Despite the dwindling amount of females in the industry, the survey did show that 72 per cent would encourage other women to become chefs.

Lisa said: "It’s an amazing industry to be in, it is a hard one and can be very draining but it’s also an incredible one because of all the people you get to meet."

By Michael Parker

@canteenparker

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 25th February 2016

Top female chefs speak out about new figures showing 'a decline in women in professional kitchens'