We’re Not 'Female Chefs,' Just Chefs
Michelin-starred chef Dominique Crenn shares her thoughts on Tom Kerridge's recent remarks that women might not have what it takes to run a kitchen and thrive as a professional chef.
This article originally appeared on MUNCHIES in October 2014.
Earlier this week, British chef Tom Kerridge stirred up controversy by remarking that although he liked "girls in the kitchen," he felt that women lack "a lot of that fire in a chef's belly you need," and that "That's probably why there [are] not so many female chefs." We asked two-Michelin-starred chef Dominique Crenn to share her thoughts on his comments.
I am often asked, "What is it like to be a female chef?"
Even though I have been asked this question for years, every time I'm caught off guard. I am a female, and have always been, and hence know no differently. And because I am a chef by profession, that's my 24-hour identity now and, I imagine, for the foreseeable future.
I often fumble my way through my response to this question, feeling pressured to say something super-clever that will educate sexists, cheer on other female chefs, and get points from feminists, all while not pissing off my male colleagues (whom I greatly admire and appreciate having camaraderie with). I have spent my career watching from the sidelines while my male chef colleagues are asked, "What is it like being a chef?"—not a male chef—and I long to be able to answer as they do.
We are all chefs, but I am supposed to be something else, too. I am expected to be a champion on the gender cause on top of that. Don't get me wrong: I want to help pave the way to make things better for female chefs in our industry—and for all chefs in general—but I worry that I will always be seen as a female chef first, and a chef second. It's a corner I am forever stuck in.
I hope for the day when I can be clever enough to say something on the subject that widens that corner for those up-and-coming, talented female chefs behind me—or, better yet, a day when women will be seen as just chefs, not "female chefs."
Of course, the absurd remarks made by chef Tom Kerridge this last week are a perfect example of something I must address; the same topic that my male colleagues can ignore.
Here I find myself again being asked to speak to this shallow, misogynistic mindset that sends goosebumps down most women's backs. And yet many people wonder why some still speak about us as second-class citizens who traipse into male-dominated spaces and sit there making mistakes, waiting for men to tell us how to do our jobs or to get out. This week, a chef decided to use his male privilege to pass judgment on 51 percent of the world's population. He did what no female chef would do. Can you imagine a female chef saying about men what he said about women in the kitchen?! No, you can't. We don't roll that way.
I have gotten over a thousand emails asking me to tell this chef off or asking me to respond to what he said. So, what is my response?
In the past, I probably would have poked fun at his comments. But, today I only have one simple request: Tom, can you please pause and consider how your comments affect your colleagues, women who want to enter our precious field, and women in general? Can you turn to the women in your life and ask for honest feedback about how these comments offend and hurt women who strive to reach their potential and feed their passion?
Listen to us share with you that we are not here striving to take anything from our male colleagues, but rather we want to be at the table and to dialogue with our art, as we too have a wish to express.