Why is the latest series of Chef's Table causing controversy?

The  Staff Canteen

The announcement of the chef line-up for the new series of Chef's Table on Netflix has caused quite a stir on social media and beyond.

According to data from the National Union of Statistics, 76.5% of professional chefs are male. This has decreased marginally from 2015, where 81.5% of professional chefs surveyed were male. However, when it comes to pastry chefs the stats tend to differ and this field is dominated by women (as demonstrated by this years James Beard Award nominees all being female reported in the Washington Post) making the decision to profile predominantly men in the new series of Chef's Table: Pastry a surprising move.

Christina Tosi
Christina Tosi is the only female
pastry chef to appear on the Netflix series 

There has always been a gender disparity in the kitchen, however, the art of pastry has always been very much female dominated, so the decision to include just one woman in the new series of Chef's Table has caused some controversy.

The popular Netflix show is focusing on all things pastry for their fourth series and will launch on the TV platform on Friday, 13th April and despite pastry being overwhelmingly dominated by women, their choice of pastry chefs is drawing some criticism on social media. 

At the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), 85 percent of those enrolled in the baking and pastry arts program are women, according to Food & Wine magazine. 

Who will be appearing on Chef's Table: Pastry?

Chef’s Table will profile four pastry chefs across three continents: Jordi Roca of the renowned Spanish restaurant El Celler de Can Roca which was voted third-best restaurant in the world in 2017; Sicilian gelato maker Corrado Assenza who has been described as “The Ferran Adrià of pastry”; Will Goldfarb chef patron of Room4Dessert in Bali and chef Christina Tosi, founder of the Momofuku Milk Bar empire.

All of these chefs are very worthy of their inclusion in the show, but many people have questioned the ratio of male to female chefs.


Reaction on social media

The decision to feature three men to one woman in what is a female dominated field has perplexed many commentators such as Montreal restaurant critic Lesley Chesterman who expressed surprise at the absence of any French pastry chefs and tweeted ideas of whom should have been included. Senior food editor, Khushbu Shah tweeted:

While Toronto-based restaurateur Jen Agg tweeted:

What do the pastry chefs think?

Julien Thevenot, group executive pastry chef for Rhubarb Food Design in London says: "I would like to think that in 2018 Chefs are chosen on their skill and capability and not on their gender – it seems this may not be the case for television. I think it is a shame there is not an equal mix of male and female chefs on Chef’s Table."

Julien Thevenot
Julien Thevenot


He added: "I would have liked to have seen Christelle Brua and Janice Wong featured – these are seriously talented female chefs doing some extraordinary things!

"The kitchen changed a long time ago – there is no such thing as a women’s place in the kitchen anymore, we have women in the main kitchen and in the pastry kitchen at rhubarb and they are all incredible. TV will hopefully catch up…"

Sarah  Frankland, head pastry chef at Pennyhill Park thinks it is 'wonderful' that Netflix has decided to produce a pastry specific version of their popular Chef's Table show.

She said: "Pastry is often an overlooked area within restaurants so it is great to see a targeted focus on this in a TV show. For the first 4 part series, they have without a doubt chosen 4 pastry chefs of high acclaim and skill.

"It is surprising to see only one female pastry chef, however, given the significant number of high-end female pastry chefs in the UK at the moment...an industry arguably dominated by female chefs."

She continued: "There are so many fabulous talented women pastry chefs globally but particularly in the UK, so perhaps itwas a missed opportunity to highlight this. In addition, so many questions are asked about why there not enough women in the main kitchen. The pastry kitchen has a significant female presence - their expertise, skill and drive alongside their male counterparts is one of the reasons UK pastry and chocolate is moving in such a positive direction.

sarah frankland
Sarah Frankland

"In summary, I'd have liked to have seen more focus on the contributions female pastry chefs have made to the industry but it's great to see a show highlighting the high end of pastry and the skill required. Hopefully next series we will see a more reflective mix."

The Director's response

In response to this criticism, Director David Gelb issued a statement, which he also posted on Twitter: “We agree there should be a better representation of women across the board and we’re committed to improving.

"There are many amazing chefs, from all walks of life, who inspire us and whose stories deserve to be told. We hope you enjoy the new season and the talented chefs behind it.”

What do you think about this decision? 

Join the debate on our Facebook page or let us know in the comments below

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 29th March 2018

Why is the latest series of Chef's Table causing controversy?