On expectations of women: Cooking is not hard. It's what comes with it. It was dominated by men. And this was in the '80s. It's not like it was in the '60s or anything like that. When I started cooking, the chefs were like, "What are you doing here? You should go and work with chocolate or something." And I said, "No. I want to make sauces, and do all this." And they looked at me like, "No. You need to go work with chocolate." So I had to really push myself and be like, "This is what I really want to do, and you're not going to stop me."
On the disproportionate number of female chefs. When we started in my class, there were six girls. By the [end of] the first year, we were left with three of us. At the end of our program, there was just me and one other girl. And by the time we were done, she was like, "You know what, Aurore? This is not for me." We got kicked in the butt...we got water thrown on us. (Laughs.) What can you do? You want to learn. It's part of the learning. So you just swallow your pride and keep moving. You couldn't do anything else...that's the way it is, so you move on.
There this girl now...who's the only woman that has a three star Michelin restaurant in France. She went into management instead of going into cooking school because she thought, "There is no way I'm going to cooking school to get insulted." You know what they tell you? "You lose your personality. You have to have my own personality." That's what [the chefs] tell you. She has a three star Michelin, but she never went to culinary school...she learned from her dad.
On blatant sexism in the industry. The guys in the kitchen with me -- they'd give me hell too...The cooks, they would say, "Oh, you must be sleeping with the chef, that's why [he's] not yelling at you this week." You get it both ways - you get it from the chef, and you get it from the cooks. So I said, "I'm not going to put up with that. I'm going to focus, and I'm going to learn. I don't care what they do. Whatever it takes, that's what I'm there for." So compromise -- I did not compromise. I was still myself. I was very respectful. If I had to be there at 8:00, I would be there five minutes before...I'll make sure I wear the proper uniform. I make sure my station is clean.
Working twice as hard. If a cook asked me to do something, I would try to do it better. If I was making a plate, I would try to do it a little bit different, better, than them. So I could show them I'm really trying. And if I couldn't do something, I would stay later at night...as [women,] we had to go further in doing things so that we could achieve, and be able to get accepted. We were not allowed to be in the kitchen, so we had to go the extra mile...[but] I didn't compromise myself. I stayed the way I was. I thought that, "There is no way they're going to take anything away from me."
Tomorrow Chef Aurore will share her recipe for a salad featuring heirloom tomatoes and purple basil.
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