Women as cordon bleu chefs, please!

With Womens Day around the corner, Metrolife finds out why there are few women chefs in the industry
Last Updated 05 March 2010, 12:36 IST

Shubhra, who finished a three-year culinary arts course is now working in the front office after a one-and-a-half year stint in the kitchen.

“Women are humiliated in the kitchen. Foul language and open gender discrimination contribute to a bad working atmosphere. There are a lot of male chefs who openly state that they don’t want women in the kitchen and if a girl does join then they ensure that she quits,” she says.

A dismal gender ratio prevails in the catering industry.

While there are certain kitchens which are more equitable, this is largely in establishments where the executive chef is a woman.

Some feel that there are justifiable reasons for this trend. One major reason is the physical and mental unsuitability of women, feels Chef Krishnendu Mukherjee. “Due to intense workload and soaring temperatures, tempers often fly and one needs to be harsh to survive in the business. Combine this with tough physical labour and Indian women find it difficult to cope in the kitchen,” he says.

While he admits that many chefs are reluctant to admit female students, he thinks that this is because women are not suitable, especially in the Chinese and Tandoori kitchens.
Navin Menon, a lecturer at the Institute of Hotel Management says that some people who have been in the catering industry are uneducated and come from a different background.

Chef Mukherjee agrees that there are a lot of uncouth persons to be dealt with and this results in harassment.

Social pressures also hold women back. Kitchens require long work hours and girls are under pressure from their parents to get married. Aisha, a junior sous-chef, is part of a restaurant that is run only by women. While she thinks it’s more about the individual than the gender, she admits that family commitments are the greatest barrier to women in the industry.

“It takes time to get to the managerial position and most women get married by then. A supportive family is important,” she says.

Chef Akanksha feels that active steps should be taken to encourage women in the industry.

“Women are more creative and have the ability to be both firm and compassionate,” she says.

(Published 05 March 2010, 12:36 IST)

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