Let's Face It, The Commercial Kitchen Is Still A Boys' Club

Next month some of the Valley's top women chefs will gather in the kitchen at Chrysa Robertson's Rancho Pinot restaurant to cook food and to make a stand, to show everyone that great, talented women chefs exist. And furthermore, that they deserve to be recognized.

It's not the first time Phoenix's female chefs have banded together in a show of force. But this dinner is slightly different. It's a response to a slew of collaborative dining events around town that have failed to showcase the talents of women chefs.

See also: Should the Food Industry Separate the Accomplishments of Female Chefs Because They're Women?

In my earlier post I pointed out the "7 Chef" series as an example of that oversight. But it's only fair to also mention that that series isn't the only circumstance of late where women have been overlooked. There was also Clever Koi's excellent but male-only Day Off Dinner series this summer and Crudo's on-going Blank Space dinner series that, as of right now, also features male chefs exclusively.

In short, this is not about a single occurrence. This is a pattern.

In response to the announcement about Robertson's Sisterhood of the Stove event chef Josh Hebert of Posh wrote to me on behalf of all the chefs involved in the 7 Chef dining series. He expressed his appreciation for our city's women chefs and even apologized to anyone offended by a perceived slight.

But here's the part the sums up the real issue to me. Hebert explained that 7 Chef series was "started as a group of people who occupied the same bar stools, golf carts, and pool halls, (and the occasional lunch playing hooky at Little Miss BBQ, or late night ramen at POSH.)"

To be clear, I believe that's totally true. I don't think it was a malicious or conscious decision that left Phoenix's women chefs on the sidelines.

It was, however, an unfortunate oversight. And more important, it serves as a poignant and timely reminder that even in 2014, the kitchen -- at least the commercial kitchen -- is still a big boys' club.

The bottom line is that the groups or cliques or whatever you want to call them of males chefs in around town regularly pull each other up, spotlight each other's talents, and offer each other support. (In fact that was part of the motivation for the first 7 Chef Steak Out, to rally around Bernie Kantak's new restaurant The Gladly.) And that's a good thing -- no, a really great thing.

But it would also be nice to see those courtesies extended to the deserving women chefs in town -- and I don't meant as a handout or a maneuver to avoid negative press. It should happen out of respect and appreciation for the work they do.

After the James Beard Awards this May, Eater crunched the numbers and happily reported that women, though still grossly outnumbered by men in the winner's circle, made a better showing than ever before. They counted for a full 38 percent of last year's winners. Of course, that triumph came just a few months after Time magazine ran that lovely "Gods of Food" issue that almost completely left out women chefs altogether.

So, yes, this is an industry wide problem.

But let's not use that as excuse not make changes here at home.

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