More female chefs mean a change in kitchen culture

 Pink chefs coat

Twenty years ago, it was rare to find a restaurant kitchen helmed by a female chef. Pioneers like Judy Rodgers and Alice Waters paved the way for change, and in recent years the number of female-run kitchens has increased dramatically, up by more than 50 percent in the last ten years. Tamar Adler (writing for Vogue) takes a look at this phenomenon in an article explaining this change and how it has affected restaurant culture

Anthony Bourdain chronicled, in entertaining fashion, the norm of kitchens past: bawdy, testosterone-fueled, even abusive. Most women-led kitchens are different. The atmosphere is calmer and more considerate. Says Suzanne Cupps of the restaurant Unititled at the Whitney Museum in New York City, "I'm not going to get what I want by screaming."

Adler visited several women-led restaurants and has quotes from many female chefs. Until I saw the names all in one place, I hadn't thought about how many of the nation's top restaurants are being helmed by women. Their stories echo several themes - wanting to teach instead of berate, consciously choosing to avoid the high pressure and drama of the kitchens where most began their careers - all while being dedicated to the mission of creating top quality dining experiences. 

Ripples of this atypical ethos are spreading. Chef Ari Taymor recently published an essay  about the value of community, repudiating anger and violence in the kitchen and  Sean Brock went public with his problems with alcohol and rage. Brock quit drinking and now meditates; he says he is bringing a new attitude into the kitchen as well as his personal life. 

Whether these changes will continue to permeate the restaurant community remains to be seen. While women have made inroads, most kitchens are still run by male chefs, although that may be changing too: for the first time, over half of last year's enrollees at the Culinary Institute of America were female. 

Photo modified from a Pinterest photo posted by ChefUniforms.com

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