A minor interlude from my St. Lucia recounting. Also, apologies for falling behind on updating about the trip, I’ve been so busy and tired recently!
I just finished perusing the Maclean’s magazine’s school edition. The rankings are always interesting to look at. At the end of the magazine there is an article about women chefs. Right up my alley so, of course, I decided to read it to see what others are saying. The article is pretty good to start with. It talks about the percentages of women entering culinary school vs the percentage of women who are in the industry. The numbers are staggering for those not in the industry. Those of us in the industry see it first hand everyday and are aware of the numbers. Needless to say it was reaffirming to see the actual numbers to know that I’m not crazy and we really are a giant minority. The article also talks to a male chef about why this might be. Luckily he’s one of the chefs that believes that women are fabulous and really should be hired more. I’ve had a chef like that – it was great. He preferred to hire women because we work harder and care more about the food. This article does say that as well which is great.
The article then goes on to speculate about why women leave the industry. Their reason? Pregnancy.
Granted, yes, some women do leave the industry for that reason because maternity leave isn’t the same in the food industry. A lot of the time if you go on leave, you loose your position in the kitchen (if you aren’t an owner/head chef) or you loose your job all together.
But the real reason that the majority of my graduating class left the culinary industry, as well as the women that I’ve worked with, is due to the fact that the kitchen is a boy’s club. The men in the kitchen, for the most part, don’t want women there. They either feel that they’re better than we are or they’re old fashioned and believe we have no place there or they feel threatened because we’re more determined and make them look bad, at least in their mind. Remembering that I’m speaking in a generality here – there’s been a lot of guys I’ve worked with that are pretty great people but for the most part they act like this. The men in the kitchen do everything in their power to push us out of the kitchen. They harass us sexually – usually verbally more than physically although there is the occasional bum slap – or they’re downright discriminate. They’re rude, crude, irritating and sometimes incompetent to the point that we have to clean up after them and they get the promotion because of it. You know the movie “Waiting”? That’s really what the kitchen is like. Granted we don’t spit in your food or drop it on the floor, but the whole “game” they refer to. I’ve seen more male genitalia out of the bedroom than I’d care to admit. They make jokes at our expense. They make their mistakes look like ours when a supervisor is present. A lot of the time they get promoted over us. It just becomes too much to handle and women drop out of the industry. A lot of the time during our practicum. In Culinary school we have to do a 150 hour practicum in the industry. For the majority of the girls in my class that’s what made up their minds not to continue in the industry after graduation. All of the girls graduated the program because they didn’t want to quit half way through but they didn’t go into the industry at the end. Out of my graduating class of 50 – I think 60% were women – 4 of us stayed in the industry. As of last year 2 of us remained. I’m out now due to injury not due to idiots. I was lucky and learned quickly how to fight back. The only good thing to have come out of my childhood being filled with bullies.
For the most part any of the women that I know that have been in the kitchen for decades don’t get pregnant. Women chefs are head strong and focused on their careers. We’re hell bent on proving the stereotype wrong. We’re concentrated on creating the best food we possibly can. We really don’t have an interest in family. We have siblings for that. Most women chefs, there are exceptions to every rule after all, really just want to cook. That’s all we want to do, that’s all we think about. Executive chefs are so busy all of the time, we’re on a 24 hour shift for the most part, that we don’t even have time to think about children. There are people who want to have a life outside of the kitchen and so many do. It’s just that the majority of women chefs don’t think about anything but food. When they do it’s usually later in life when they’re ready to retire from 24 hour days and settle into a more stable work life. Either that or it’s when they’ve discussed it with their husbands and it’s paternity leave not maternity leave. Women do have lives outside the kitchen but it’s not the reason we leave the industry. We leave because we get tired of the politics, harassment, long hours, and instability of the industry.
Thank you for listening, I’m much calmer now. ^.^