Female Chefs Respond to Dominique Crenn Being Told She Cooks like a Man
It's no secret that the restaurant industry, like many industries, is led by men. Of the 169 establishments that garnered Michelin stars in the U.S. alone, only 18 have a woman at the top. That leaves an overwhelming percentage of top-tier restaurants devoid of females at the head of the food chain. However this disparity came to be, one thing is certain: The issue is not going away anytime soon.
Last month, San Francisco Chronicle restaurant critic Michael Bauer said of acclaimed chef Dominique Crenn, “She cooks the way the men are cooking.” He went on to say, “She has been successful because she does have talent, and she has worked hard. . . . But let’s be honest, also because she has enormous charisma, she’s beautiful, and has that French accent.” Nearly a month later, chefs and other members of the food community are still talking about the incendiary comment. As women across the nation stand in protest for A Day Without a Woman today, we asked a few industry folks to weigh in on Bauer's comment about Crenn and explain what it means to them.
"We’ve been told numerous times that our cooking is 'feminine,' which people always intend as a compliment. We’re happy to be identified with femaleness, as strong and proud women, but the masculine/feminine binary has no legitimate place in culinary expression or its criticism. It’s an artificial construct we’d be happy to see done away with. We tip our hats to Dominique for fighting back against this sort of absurdity, not to mention the insult of the sidelined category of Best Female Chef. She’s an inspiration and a beacon in an often archaically minded industry."
Ellen Yin, owner of Fork restaurant in Philadelphia, and co-owner of High Street on Market and High Street on Hudson:
"I think Dominique Crenn handled herself with the utmost grace. Ultimately being at the top of this industry requires not only artistic vision, but also leadership, hard work and sacrifice. Regardless of the type of cuisine, her creativity is different from anybody else, and her ability to mentor chefs—both male and female—to follow her vision is what truly makes her a success. As women, we want to be judged as professionals and by our results. Her high-performing team is a testament to those talents."
Anita Lo, chef and owner of Annisa in NYC:
"I cringed when I read that [comment]. It is interesting that Mr. Bauer is from San Francisco, which I think of as one of the most progressive cities in the country. Without really knowing his intention with those comments, they seem anachronistic. And in this age of gender fluidity, come on! Even food is subject to a binary gendered system? Dominique's artistry deserves more than to be placed in these silly boxes."
Anonymous, pastry chef in NYC:
"The NYT article about Dominique Crenn is just another reminder of the sexism not only in the restaurant industry but in the country in general. As a female working in the industry, I admire and look up to [Crenn], because she's worked extremely hard to get where she is. If I had a dollar for every asshole that [has] been sexist toward me in some way. I could pay off my student loans. But I don't let that prevent me from doing what I love. A lot of chefs I know credit their mother or grandmother as the reason they fell in love with cooking, so why is it so hard for women to be recognized today? Wake up; it's 2017."
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