Food and Feminism

Food glorious food! The restaurant industry is a place we don’t think about when looking for feminist movements to care about, but this is a profession that is in desperate need of a ‘touch-up’. In 2019, only 23.9% of chefs in the US were female, while other other 76.1% were male. Since the pandemic started, Zippia Chef Demographics and Statistics, notes that the number of women in chef positions has only risen to 25.8% and doesn’t look to continue rising at a faster rate anytime soon.

But why should we even care?–census–women-make-up-less-than-a-quarter-of-chefs

The restaurant industry is known by many as one of the most brutal to work for, as the hours are long, and the kitchens can be overwhelming to anyone. Executive chef Maribel Rivero calls the kitchen a “battleground”. This may be one of the leading causes that makes cooking a domestic duty in the home for many women, but a career for men. We categorize ‘tough’ or ‘brutal’ jobs to be male dominated because society believes they are more likely to handle difficult professions, while women are expected to do jobs that are more nurturing and involve helping others. Mike Pomranz wrote that when The Culinary Institute of America opened its doors back in 1946, there was only one female student along with 50 other male students admitted into the program. In 2017 the number grew to 51.6% women and 49.9% male, showing that women are extremely attracted to the occupation of becoming a head executive chef. But here is where the problem starts… in 2020 women only made up about 6.3% of head chef positions in the US. If there is about an equal number of women coming out of culinary school each year, why are men still dominating this industry?

You guessed it. 

Society has deemed the restaurant industry to be considered a ‘male profession’.

Executive chef Maribel Rivero states that much of her experiences as a woman working in a professional kitchen aren’t much different from working in other jobs as a woman. The gender bias is still very similar. You have to climb to the top and be scrappy to get to where you want to be in the kitchen. While everyone should work hard to achieve success, women shouldn’t have to work twice as hard as men in order to receive a higher ranking in the profession. Rivero states that if you are determined, a “breakthrough” may occur. Why does that have to be the case? We need to change the narrative from cooking is only a woman’s job if it is in the house, to women are more than capable of organizing a large kitchen of individuals and being successful.

What can we do about this issue?

First, we can seek out female-owned restaurants and give them business. Maybe even boost their social media presence through raving reviews (but let’s still keep them honest) and reposting pictures of their dishes. The only way to promote women in the industry, is to give them the attention they deserve. A second way we can help this important issue is by donating to the James Beard Foundation for women’s leadership programs. This foundation gives money to women-owned businesses and provides scholarships to women looking to start their educational journeys. Lastly, we need to document the work that female chefs do every day. Even looking up pictures of chefs on Google images you can find hundreds of pictures of men with only a sprinkle of women added in the mix. In order for the number of executive female chefs to rise, we need to document the achievements women are making in the food industry every day.

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