This story was featured in news-press.com:

Women can stand the heat, won't get out of the kitchen
More females bring home bacon as chefs

By DREW STERWALD • dsterwald@news-press.com • March 12, 2008

Melissa Talmage lasted six months in the first kitchen she worked in after graduating from New York's French Culinary Institute.
Advertisement


She was the only woman in the kitchen.

"I got physically pushed out of the way," she recalls. "I was told by the line cooks to go to the corner."

Not anymore. After stints at such high-profile restaurants as Union Square Café in New York City and Commanders' Palace in New Orleans, she's running her own kitchen at Sanibel's RedFish BluFish (soon to be Sweet Melissa's Cafe).

Nonetheless, some customers assume Talmage's male sous chef is in charge. Even though they see her firing up pans in the tiny open kitchen. Even though she wears a shirt embroidered with the words EXECUTIVE CHEF.

"When people are walking out (after eating) they thank him," Talmage says. "They automatically ask him questions."

Talmage laughs it off, but the scene dramatizes how women face sexism, stereotyping, sometimes even harassment in the kitchen in order to succeed in the male-dominated restaurant world.

But it's not stopping them in their clogs.

"I'm not a quitter," says Gloria Cabral-Jordan, chef and owner of the 30-seat La Trattoria Cafe Napoli in south Fort Myers. "You might see me in a girlie skirt, but when I'm in the kitchen I'm a man."
in the minority

Cabral-Jordan and Talmage are still in the minority, though their numbers have soared in recent years.

The U.S. Labor Department categorizes chef as a "nontraditional" career for women - akin to construction worker, firefighter, mechanic.

Women make up only about 24 percent of chefs and head cooks in the United States, according to the National Restaurant Association. But their numbers have increased 44 percent from 49,000 in 2000 to 71,000 last year, the association reports.

"I think that increase reflects the growing professional opportunities in the industry, more culinary school graduates, as well as ownership opportunities," said association spokeswoman Maureen Ryan.

From magazines to television to restaurants, more women are seen running kitchens and creating dishes -and getting the credit. Half of the contestants on Bravo TV's "Top Chef" reality show are women -but men have won the first three seasons.

"It's really fabulous now to open Food & Wine magazine and see women chefs getting as much play as men," Talmage says. "Our general manager is a woman. Our owner is a woman. The staff (of five) is pretty much all guys under us."
Bucking stereotypes

Even if they've learned the same cooking echniques as men in culinary school, women historically haven't had access to the same opportunities as men when they enter the working world.

Female chefs say they feel nudged toward the role of pastry chef, concocting delicate sweets rather than flipping pans around flaming gas burners. Or they might be pushed to work the front of the house, schmoozing with patrons. Some go into catering, so they can control their hours while raising a family.

Although she has worked as a pastry chef at restaurants such as CrŸ in Fort Myers, Cabral-Jordan bristles at such stereotyping. Raised in Spain, she studied cooking in Europe, which she says is more open to women than the American restaurant industry.

"I want to be making sauces, and you have to be on the line to do that," she says, referring to the kitchen staff that does most of the on-the-spot cooking. "They think women are too fragile ... it's intense. Well, I'm not afraid of fire. I'm not afraid of heat."

When Cabral-Jordan opened her Spanish-Italian trattoria after working at many other local restaurants, she was finally her own boss.

She cooked the food. She answered questions about the food. She served the food.

"To survive in this business, you have to be a good cook but you have to be strong," she says.

Now, 21/2 years later, tables are hard to come by at La Trattoria Cafe Napoli without reservations on most weekends. Last December, Cabral-Jordan trounced her old CrŸ boss, Shannon Yates, in a paella throwdown.

Now, she's dreaming of opening another small restaurant.
A different world

The odds of such success in a man's world might be better outside the pressure-cooker world of restaurant hubs like New York City, theorizes Karen Hutto. She owns The Flying Pig catering business in Fort Myers and has worked with most of the chefs in the area.

"Locally, things are a little bit more relaxed," she says. "None of the chefs I've dealt with in the past eight years has treated me any differently than a male chef."

Hutto should know. She traded a female-dominated field for a male-dominated field. She worked as a nurse for 24 years — 17 in emergency rooms — before deciding to pursue catering. When she encounters sexist behavior - wandering eyes or patronizing attitudes — it's usually not from men in the kitchen but those outside.

"Working in the ER gives you a pretty thick skin," she says. "A lot has to do with your personality and attitude. People treat you the way you allow them to treat you."

Tags: chefs, female, more, news-press

Views: 1

Advertisments

 

DEPARTMENTS

Social Wine Club for Craft Wineries

Smartbrief

Kids LiveWell atwitter over Twitter party

In its continuing effort to promote more nutritious and flavorful children's menu options, the NRA will hold a Twitter party  -More

Starbucks could become top on-premise wine seller in U.S.

Starbucks is planning to slowly expand its evening sales of wine, beer and small plates to thousands of selected stores throu -More

The evolving nature of snacks

Snacks have shifted from an after-school treat to a meal alternative as meal times become more fragmented.  -More

JOBS & CAREERS

Posting a job or finding a job starts here at FohBoh. Call us about special $25 posting packages to syndicate across all major jobs boards.

National News

Wahlburgers Announces Expansion Plans Including Franchise Agreement in Philadelphia

Wahlburgers has signed a franchise agreement with Hingham Associates, LLC that will bring five Wahlburgers to the metropolitan Philadelphia area over the next several years. The franchise group is actively looking at sites and is targeting a late 2014-early 2015 opening for its first restaurant.

Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. First Quarter 2014 Revenue Up 24.4%

Comparable restaurant sales increased 13.4% - Restaurant level operating margin was 25.9%, a decrease of 40 basis points

Jamba Juice Announces Grand Opening of New St. Louis, MO Location

Jamba Juice Company announced the brand’s continued expansion in the St. Louis market with the opening of a Jamba Juice® store at 11477 Olive Blvd. on April 16, 2014.

Expert in Real Estate Analytics Joins Luna Grill

Luna Grill, the San Diego-based Mediterranean restaurant chain, is welcoming retail real estate industry veteran Greg Thorburn to its leadership team. Thorburn has been brought on board to fill the newly created position of Vice-President of Real Estate.

Rita's Italian Ice Awards Area Development Agreement for Kansas

Rita's Italian Ice has awarded franchise and area development agreements for Kansas and the Kansas City area, which extends to the Missouri side of the city, to franchisees and local residents Jay Miller, Jeff Miller and Pat Reilly.

CROWD FUNDING

If you are looking for capital to start or grow your restaurant, create the next 501c3, develop and launch the next app for the restaurant industry,or want to help your peers in some meaningful way, we want to know about it.

TED TALKS VIDEO

TED: Matthew Carter: My life in typefaces - Matthew Carter (2014)

Pick up a book, magazine or screen, and more than likely you'll come across some typography designed by Matthew Carter. In this charming talk, the man behind typefaces such as Verdana, Georgia and Bell Centennial (designed just for phone books -- remember them?), takes us on a spin through a career focused on the very last pixel of each letter of a font.

TED: Jeremy Kasdin: The flower-shaped starshade that might help us detect Earth-like planets - Jeremy Kasdin (2014)

Astronomers believe that every star in the galaxy has a planet, one fifth of which might harbor life. Only we haven't seen any of them -- yet. Jeremy Kasdin and his team are looking to change that with the design and engineering of an extraordinary piece of equipment: a flower petal-shaped "starshade" that allows a telescope to photograph planets from 50,000 kilometers away. It is, he says, the "coolest possible science."

TED: Norman Spack: How I help transgender teens become who they want to be - Norman Spack (2013)

Puberty is an awkward time for just about everybody, but for transgender teens it can be a nightmare, as they grow overnight into bodies they aren't comfortable with. In a heartfelt talk, endocrinologist Norman Spack tells a personal story of how he became one of the few doctors in the US to treat minors with hormone replacement therapy. By staving off the effects of puberty, Spack gives trans teens the time they need. (Filmed at TEDxBeaconStreet.)

TED: Jennifer Senior: For parents, happiness is a very high bar - Jennifer Senior (2014)

The parenting section of the bookstore is overwhelming—it's "a giant, candy-colored monument to our collective panic," as writer Jennifer Senior puts it. Why is parenthood filled with so much anxiety? Because the goal of modern, middle-class parents—to raise happy children—is so elusive. In this honest talk, she offers some kinder and more achievable aims.

© 2014   Created by FohBoh.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service