Welcome to Chow Bella's Bites & Dishes, where Valley chefs and restaurateurs respond to a question New Times food critic Laura Hahnefeld has on her mind. Have a question you'd like to ask? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last month, following the announcement of this year's 50 Best Female Chefs In The World, celebu-chef Eric Ripert, via Twitter, resurrected a question that's been brought up in the culinary world many times before: Should the food industry separate the accomplishments of female chefs because they're women?
I asked Valley chefs and restaurateurs (male and female) for their thoughts on this ongoing debate and this is what they had to say:
Gina Buskirk Chef and Owner, Gina's Homemade
Absolutely not! We are not looking for set-asides, carve-outs, or feel-good accolades. It demeans the work, the person, and the accomplishment. Chefs, like achievers in any other field, should be recognized for their achievements alone.
Josh Hebert Chef and Owner, Posh
If they primarily deal with men in the kitchen, then, yes, they definitely deserve to have their accomplishments singled out. We're not the easiest bunch to get along with.
Michael O'Dowd Chef and Owner, Renegade MOD
No. It's a tough road for all female chefs, but it's an equally tough road for many male chefs. Both sexes share the flames and the fight for the light. In essence, they both burn accomplishments as one in the culinary scene. There are a ton of hot chefs out there, both female and male, that no one ever hears of.
Silvana Salcido Esparza Chef and owner, Barrio Cafe and Barrio Queen
Accomplishments are accomplishments. No need to point out that the chef is a female. Now, being a female in a man's world -- that's another story. I have tons of [those stories] -- saving them for the book. The bottom line is, if you're a badass, it doesn't matter. Your taste buds don't care about the gender of the chef. Really.
Anthony Spinato Chef and Owner, Spinato's Pizzeria
No. My wife, who is one of our chefs, would want to be singled out for her accomplishments only if they were compared to all chefs, not just females. It diminishes the accomplishment if you single it out by gender. However, I understand that as more female chefs are highlighted, it will encourage more to the field.
Lauren Bailey Restaurateur, Upward Projects
Talent and creativity come in all shapes, sizes, and genders. Everyone should be acknowledged by the same standards. It's exciting to see so many accolades for people who are passionate about the culinary world, and I think gender can be left out of it.
Chef Stephen "Chops" Smith, Searsucker, Scottsdale
I'd say so. The industry is heavily male-dominated, and it can be hard for female chefs. Kudos to them for sticking it out!
Bill Sandweg Owner, Copper Star Coffee
At some point in time, this question should be irrelevant. But in reality, it's so hard to get through the grinder of restaurant work as a woman. Things are way better now than 20 years ago, but I would think that it's okay to keep rewarding female chefs for their success.
Kevin Binkley Chef and Owner, Binkley's, Café Bink, and Bink's Midtown
No, it should be on ability. I have worked with some outstanding female chefs, one of which is currently running Cafe Bink -- Tandy Peterson. She can cook as good or better than any of the guys that work with me.
Farah Khalid Chef and Owner, Curry Corner
I believe all chefs should get equal recognition for their achievements. If there are particular awe-inspiring stories out there, why not bring them more into the light?
Christopher Gross, Chef and Owner, Christopher's Restaurant & Crush Lounge
They shouldn't, but the attention helps to get more interested in a field that's male-dominated.
Chef Chris Mayo, North
I think anytime we can reward someone for a job well done, we should do it. If that means segregating chefs into categories, then so be it. The more people getting recognized for their talent, the better.
Don Carey Corporate Culinary Chef, TQLA
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The food industry should single out accomplishments of any chef, male or female, who has been able to achieve a dream or overcome an obstacle. It's tougher than ever to succeed as a chef these days. Any good chef that has pride and passion wants to be noted for their work, not their sex.
Eric O'Neill Chef and CEO, SmartKitchen.com
Singling out anyone because of their gender or race is not acceptable. In most growing industries, the way to improve and stay current is to embrace the changes that come with it. If a female chef has been able to accomplish more in the industry than you have (a male chef), well, get over it.