What does it mean to support female food creators?

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Every day, since I was a child, my mother would cook home cooked meals for our family. When she would call out to us, my siblings, my father and I would wait in anticipation for what we were eating. To say my mother’s food was delicious was an understatement, it was otherworldly. I cannot begin to understand how she could take simple ingredients and typical staple seasonings and blend them together to make all her humble dishes, including my favorite from her, baked mac and cheese. However, my mother was never humble about her cooking; she knew that what she did was good, and no one can cook like her, well, except her mother, my late grandmother, Emmer.

To this day, I am still trying to chase both of their shadows, while forging my own interest in cooking. I remember seeing my grandmother, a child of Mississippi farmers grow food in her own garden and use it in her meals. When she would visit us, or we would visit her in Wisconsin, we had food made from scratch — buttermilk biscuits, fried green tomatoes, and fresh orange juice.

On the other hand, my mother on the was less concerned with growing food since we lived in an apartment, but she did care about foods with complex flavors. So, her food was full of spice and flare. I’ve been inspired to mix the old and the new, my grandmother’s healthy and garden-fresh ingredients and my mother’s love of spice in what I care about, baking.

My family story is not completely unique; there are families all over the world who can point to stories where women were the original food creators in their home. This incredible representation of self-taught female chefs in our homes, unfortunately does not translate into the culinary world for those who become professional chefs because there are so few female chefs in the industry. How did we get here?

Where are all the female chefs?

A chef cutting a steak in preparation of a meal

There is no doubt about it, the culinary world, like many other sectors is male dominated. In 2017, The Boston Globe’s article “Chart: The percentage of women and men in each profession,” reported only 21.4% of women were chefs and head cooks, while men made up 78.6%. The numbers changed marginally in 2018 when the percentage rose for women by 11% based on data from Data USA.  So, you may be looking at this data and wondering, “why aren’t there more women in the culinary world?” Well, the answer is complicated and nuanced.

It is safe to say that the culinary world is tough. It can be a struggle to run a team and given that society largely still operates under traditional societal expectations of women, female chefs are working and supporting their families. This “can I have it all” dichotomy, sets females chefs up to feel guilty about working and taking care of family at the same time. The other issue is listening to women. This is not an issue simply found in the restaurant industry, this is a larger issue that people have been socialized into based on what we perceive as societal norms. And that reality makes it clear that female chefs must work even harder just to get recognition in this business.

Then there is the issue of buy-in from other chefs, mostly male who have a lot of power in the restaurant world. In a 2018 Eater piece called “The chefs we don’t see,” by Meghan McCarron, she reports how male centered the profession is and how the power is disproportionate. “Men have a disproportionate share of power in the restaurant world for a whole host of reasons — male-dominated networks, male-centric kitchens, men’s preference for investing in other men — but underpinning and reinforcing all these is the core story that important cooking is done by men. Our culture’s desire for compelling male chefs, and discomfort with women cooking professionally, helped give rise to the ugly system we can no longer unsee.” It seems that women are “expected” or even assumed to be the ones in the kitchen domestically, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with a woman cooking for herself, in the home. However, the problem is when those same cooks’ food is considered insignificant and this view warps the idea of who can really be a “chef.”

Despite these issues, food media has done a great job with making sure they highlight female chefs in the food scene in cities everywhere. There is obviously more that can be done, but with articles from Forbes, Vogue, InsideHook, and other publications, recognition for female chefs is helping get their names out there. However, there is still a lot to be done if female chefs are going to get equal visibility in the field. While media is doing its job covering female chefs, the stats on how much they are promoted is staggering. Using a qualitative methodology, authors Deborah A. Harris and Patti Giuffre conducted in-depth interviews with 33 women who had experience as professional chefs and their media data included 2,200 restaurant reviews and chef profiles published across well-known newspapers published between 2004 and 2009.

The data from their research culminated in their book “Taking the Heat: Women Chefs and Gender Inequality in the Professional Kitchen” Among their findings was that restaurant reviews and chef profiles from places like the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Gourmet, Food & Wine that “Women chefs [were] only the focus of slightly more than 10% of the articles that feature men and women chefs together, women are still only mentioned in around 22% of the reviews and profiles.” Here’s a table of the breakdown based on media reviews and profiles chefs.

 

Media Sources and Gender of Chefs Reviewed or Profiled (2004-2009)

Number of men chefs reviewed or profiled Number of women chefs reviewed or profiled Number of both men and women chefs reviewed or profiled Total
New York Times 1,200 120 119 1,439
San Francisco Chronicle 346 86 20 452
Gourmet 88 12 44 144
Food & Wine 93 12 66 171
Total 1,727 230 249 2,206

*Found in Chapter 2 of Taking the Heat: Women Chefs and Gender Inequality in the Professional Kitchen

 

The obvious argument people could make is that because there are so few female chefs in the profession that of course the numbers are low. This is true; the numbers are low, but what happens when major news spaces don’t push to create real equity for female chefs? It’s clear that women will continue to have problems finding opportunities to get their names out into the industry and make money off their brand. It is a hard world out there and there is so much more that can be done to fully have equitable opportunities and a level playing field for any woman interested in joining the culinary world, and for those who are fighting hard to stay.

How we help female chefs from the kitchen to the world

A chef stirring, surrounded by equipment

What I envision for the future of food is providing equitable opportunities for female food creators — chefs (professional or self-taught), home cooks, farmers, producers, artisans, bakers, breadmakers, and more. It will take the work of everyone to make this happen, and it is truly not a lofty goal. We can start by seeking out the stories of female food creators and listening to their stories as well as learning about their lived experiences in this world that provides barriers to their mobility. It’s also necessary to put more women in charge of positions that can influence real change and we must support staff at lower levels. It matters that we highlight intersectionally — women of color, queer women, transwomen and women with disabilities; all women food creators deserve to be heard and supported in this industry and we can do it one step at a time by giving them the platform to support or create their businesses and foster a culture of inclusiveness.

Educating people about privilege in the food industry and training people to be better allies to the most underrepresented and marginalized people is necessary to show real care. Once we seek, learn, create opportunities, and highlight diverse perspectives, we can get closer to a better realized vision for equitable food opportunities for women. That is where I believe Plates can help. This platform will allow female business owners level the playing field by gaining dedicated followers, through interested diners, and make money doing the work they love.

Visualizing a world where women can take control of their businesses is a world I want to live in for the foreseeable future. There is a beauty in empowering female food creators, self-taught or classically trained to take the leap to real ownership. Having female bakers, producers, artisans, and farmers make their mark on the world by centering their views on food, and making it known that their voice in the food industry is vital to keeping this industry alive.

 

 

 

 

 

74 thoughts on “What does it mean to support female food creators?”

  1. This was really thought provoking. It’s amazing how reality is distorted by what is presented in the mainstream. It takes in depth research like this to paint a much more honest and accurate picture of what is really happening. Having spent the last 15 years in the industry, I can vouch for these realities globally. I love the idea of a platform that evens the playing field and gives all an equal opportunity for growth!

  2. Hi! This post could not be written any better! Reading this post
    reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept chatting about this.

    I will forward this post to him. Fairly certain he will have a
    good read. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Only wanna comment on few general things, The website pattern is perfect, the written content is really wonderful. “The way you treat yourself sets the standard for others.” by Sonya Friedman.

  4. Thanks , I have just been searching for info approximately
    this topic for a while and yours is the best
    I have discovered till now. However, what in regards
    to the conclusion? Are you positive in regards to the supply?

  5. Simply wish to say your article is as surprising. The clearness in your post is simply nice and i can assume you are an expert on this subject. Well with your permission let me to grab your RSS feed to keep updated with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please carry on the gratifying work.|

  6. Usually I do not read post on blogs, but I would like to say that this write-up very pressured me to try and do so! Your writing taste has been surprised me. Thanks, quite nice article.

  7. certainly like your web site but you have to check the spelling on several of your posts. Several of them are rife with spelling problems and I find it very troublesome to tell the truth then again I’ll surely come again again.

  8. hi!,I really like your writing very much! percentage we keep in touch more approximately your article on AOL? I need an expert on this house to solve my problem. Maybe that is you! Taking a look forward to see you.

  9. I got what you mean , regards for posting .Woh I am lucky to find this website through google. “Those who corrupt the public mind are just as evil as those who steal from the public.” by Theodor Wiesengrund Adorno.

  10. Hi, Neat post. There is an issue along with your site in internet explorer, might check this… IE nonetheless is the market leader and a huge part of folks will leave out your excellent writing because of this problem.

  11. I like what you guys are up also. Such smart work and reporting! Carry on the superb works guys I’ve incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it will improve the value of my site :).

  12. I like what you guys are up also. Such smart work and reporting! Keep up the excellent works guys I have incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it will improve the value of my site :).

  13. I like what you guys are up also. Such intelligent work and reporting! Carry on the superb works guys I have incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it will improve the value of my site :).

  14. I’ve been absent for some time, but now I remember why I used to love this site. Thank you, I will try and check back more frequently. How frequently you update your web site?

  15. A person essentially assist to make severely posts I would state. This is the first time I frequented your web page and thus far? I surprised with the research you made to create this particular put up amazing. Great job!

  16. What i don’t realize is if truth be told how you’re now not really a lot more neatly-liked than you may be now. You are so intelligent. You realize thus considerably in the case of this matter, produced me in my opinion believe it from so many various angles. Its like men and women don’t seem to be interested except it’s something to do with Lady gaga! Your personal stuffs excellent. Always care for it up!

  17. you are truly a good webmaster. The website loading speed is incredible. It seems that you’re doing any unique trick. Moreover, The contents are masterwork. you’ve done a great process in this topic!

  18. Good – I should certainly pronounce, impressed with your website. I had no trouble navigating through all the tabs as well as related info ended up being truly simple to do to access. I recently found what I hoped for before you know it at all. Reasonably unusual. Is likely to appreciate it for those who add forums or something, website theme . a tones way for your client to communicate. Nice task.

  19. You can certainly see your enthusiasm in the paintings you write. The world hopes for more passionate writers like you who aren’t afraid to say how they believe. At all times go after your heart. “Until you’ve lost your reputation, you never realize what a burden it was.” by Margaret Mitchell.

  20. Normally I don’t read post on blogs, but I would like to say that this write-up very pressured me to take a look at and do it! Your writing style has been amazed me. Thanks, quite great article.

  21. Hello, Neat post. There’s an issue with your site in internet explorer, could check this… IE nonetheless is the market leader and a good portion of people will leave out your great writing due to this problem.

  22. I got what you intend, thankyou for posting .Woh I am happy to find this website through google. “I was walking down the street wearing glasses when the prescription ran out.” by Steven Wright.

  23. Wow! This can be one particular of the most helpful blogs We’ve ever arrive across on this subject. Basically Fantastic. I am also an expert in this topic therefore I can understand your effort.

  24. certainly like your web site but you have to take a look at the spelling on several of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling issues and I to find it very bothersome to inform the truth on the other hand I’ll surely come back again.

  25. I haven’t checked in here for a while as I thought it was getting boring, but the last few posts are good quality so I guess I’ll add you back to my everyday bloglist. You deserve it my friend 🙂

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.