Heat's on women in the kitchen
Honestly, when eating out, I never think about whether my food was prepared by a female or male chef — until now.
I knew things could be rough and tumbly back in the kitchen.
I've had clients working as line cooks with hopes of being a chef someday.
They came to our meetings with nasty burns on their wrists and barely able to stay awake.
Sometimes I park myself at that counter where a restaurant lets you eat inches from the comings and goings of food making and observe the chaotic rhythm of sautéing, grilling, frying, passing, placing, dripping, dropping and shouting.
But thanks to Charlotte Druckman's new book “Skirt Steak: Women Chefs on Standing the Heat and Staying in the Kitchen,” I have a deeper appreciation for the work overall and how women chefs prevail in this cutthroat, male-dominated industry.
She examines the stages of and influences on a chef's career through the experiences of 73 women. Think of it as 73 unfettered informational interviews.
What does it take to make it?
The traits are fascination with food and the desire to communicate through this particular medium, the author says.
“It takes a very strong physicality (and) a strong mind to be able to work the hours and get pummeled physically in the way that you do,” Chef Liza Shaw says.
Chef Ann Cashion points out that “most of the women who thrived in her kitchen were those who had played team sports, excelled athletically, or possessed physical confidence,” Druckman writes. The idea “that they are physically capable of enduring so much” made them “better equipped to handle life in the galley.”
“I've given up everything to become a chef and do what I do ... holidays ... family ... to know and live food, and to be able to now, somewhat, create freely,” Chef Waylynn Lucas says.
What used to bother chef Gina DePalma most was always feeling “like I had to sacrifice my femininity,” such as nurturing. “You have to buy into the whole ‘pretend to be one of the boys.' ”
To get along in a galley, women cooks frequently have had to choose between “acting like a man (renouncing all vestiges of femaleness) or becoming invisible,” the author says.
It's “hard to sleep at night when you actually do get the hours to sleep,” chef Melissa Perello says. You never stop thinking of how your food is presented and how customers and peers receive it.
Partially, she says that's “related to being a woman in the industry and being surrounded by other male chefs.”
Chef Shuna Lydon recalls this piece of advice from a female line cook:
“Just know this: You're going to work twice as hard for half the respect.”
“There's a lot of offensive stuff said in the kitchen,” chef Stephanie Izard says. “That's what seems to trip most women up.”
“Doors for professional kitchens are now slightly open to women,” says food writer and author Jennifer Rubell, in an AOL On Food video. But, “Restaurant cooking is still basically the province of men.”
Pastry chef Heather Bertinetti says the only way to survive “is if I know I can go toe to toe” with the men to stick up for myself and make my mark.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Reagan shooter Hinckley closer to permanent freedom
- Insider: Lapierre’s play is improved
- Cole overcomes rough start as Pirates sweep Brewers
- Minnesota tight end Williams hopes to join father as 1st-round pick
- For Penguins penalty kill, enough is enough
- Steelers won’t be backed into a corner at NFL Draft
- Quarterback Tebow expected to sign with Eagles
- Outdoors notebook: Hunters Sharing the Harvest has big year
- Pirates notebook: GM sticking to plan with Kang
- Pitt football notebook: ‘No. 1 safety’ Mitchell asked to step up
- Penn State notebook: Offensive line is work in progress