Chef vs. Cook

My paternal grandmother had a giant kitchen. She was an excellent cook by necessity. She could do things like have an entire roast lunch ready on demand for a crowd of people after church, every Sunday. She understood the importance of getting good food onto the table.

One day, when I was maybe in my teens, I was helping her out and having a good time of it and she said something to the effect of “You’re a good cook, you should be a chef!”. At the time I bristled. How un-feminist! How old fashioned! I mean really, grandma, tsk. Little did I know what a modern career suggestion she was actually making.

Statistics show that there are almost double the men, 1.9 to 1, working in Vancouver’s restaurants compared to women (in 2006, 13360 men to 6985 women). Nationwide, 1.4 men to every woman are categorized as in food services or cook, and specifically for chefs the discrepancy is much more pronounced at 3.5 men to every woman (Source 2006 Census of Canada).

It can’t be that women have stopped cooking overall. Women are still the ones doing the majority of unpaid housework including cooking. But when it comes to going into a career in food, lots of women are still stopped short by a male dominated environment and long inflexible hours. The tide is slowly changing as a more even distribution of women are being shown in the media on shows like Top Chef and Chopped. However the majority of women are still shown baking cupcakes (Cupcake Wars, The Cupcake Girls, DC Cupcakes, etc) or as color commentators and eye Candy a la Padma Lakshmi.

So is this still social stereotypes ( take a look at the amount of pink in the cupcakes links) or just the options available? Women can arguably do any job that they want to. So certainly we should be enthusiastically starting work at 5am, burning our inner wrists, coming home smelling of garlic and smoke…?

It’s still the women cooking for love and pleasure. We are still the ones making cookies with the kids, bringing birthday cakes for the office, making consolation casseroles for a friend in need. We cook for those we love to show love. It’s so pleasurable, why muck it up by chasing after a paycheck.

There is no reason why women can’t dominate the professional kitchen, the question is; Do we want to?

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