Women chefs not wanted

Unless, maybe, they wear swimsuits to work?

Until the later 20th century when women began to break the stronghold of the male chef, it was said women simply could not handle the job of running a restaurant kitchen. What follows are the reasons given by people associated with restaurants of the 20th century.

Most of the opinions recorded here were expressed by men, but a few were by women (sigh).

1906 – Women lack accuracy using flavorings and condiments – Women do not have the right temperament, they lose their heads. – Women could not stand the strain of hard work. – They are not managers. – They do not practice economy. – They lack patience and delicacy. – They are not as orderly as men in the kitchen. – They cannot rise to the occasion in a crisis. – They cannot organize the work of a kitchen.

1908 – The work of a chef is unsuited to her physique.

1912 – Women are not particular enough to make a perfect dish.

1913 – They would become rattled and go to pieces if they had to handle the responsibilities of chef. – They go off on a tangent when things are not as they should be.

1931 – The duties are too strenuous for them. – They could not handle an elaborate menu. – They cut meat the wrong way. – They don’t make gravies and sauces properly.

1932 – Their taste is inferior to men’s.

1942 – The great chefs have always been men . . . [so there must be a good reason why] – There are scarcely any women gourmets.

1952 – Women can only do about 15% or 20% of the jobs in a restaurant kitchen as well as men.

1957 – Women can’t handle work in a restaurant kitchen either physically or mentally. – They lack discipline. – They make changes based on their own likes and dislikes.

1965 – Men have more of an inner potential for good cooking then women. – If cooking for a very large number of people a woman would probably break down crying and run away.

1968 – Heat in restaurant kitchens makes women nervous.

1975 – Women lack the instinct for great cooking.

1981 – Men seem to have more derring-do in the kitchen.

© Jan Whitaker, 2019


Filed under chefs, restaurant controversies, restaurant issues, women

17 responses to “Women chefs not wanted

  1. Anonymous

    Can anyone help me with woman chefs from the 1900s?

  2. Pingback: Work Place Struggle – A Texan Woman's View!

  3. I may be wrong but I don’t think in Europe and the UK in earlier times this was an issue. There were several notable women chefs/restauranteurs then. Of course the high top places were usually men like Escoffiere, but Rosa Lewis was famed for her restaurant/hotel (and she did a fair amount of the cooking) in Duke Street just off Piccadilly in London. The then Prince of Wales and his coterie were huge fans. This was in the late 1890s early 1900s. Rosa became known as ‘The Duchess of Duke Street”!

  4. Sandrs hunter

    We are still changing the face of a ‘Chef’ in the kitchen and ownership!!.Can’t wait til a Julia Child or Leah Chase award get the notoriety of the James Beard Award!
    Always thought provoking offering!!

  5. misenplacememoir

    Oh my. Just goes to show you that the status quo is often wrong. As a former woman-chef, none of those things ever applied to me. And I was smart enough to go apply the strengths of running a kitchen to a more satisfying trade.

  6. I thought this was an excellent, thought-provoking article. Like your other reader, I too would have liked to read all the citations (curious minds need to know), but since this wasn’t an academic paper and that would have required a lot of extra, tedious typing, it wasn’t really necessary because you’ve got plenty of credibility! Thanks for a great site.

    • I thought of attributing all of them but it would have become quite awkward to read. A number of them were by people generally unfamiliar today, so then I would have needed to explain who they were too. If there are specific ones in question I will supply citations.

  7. Oh God, how scared some men were (are) of us.

  8. That image belongs in the 1930s, you should not be perpetuating and continuing this terrible representation of women.

    If this had been a race that was prejudiced against, I doubt you would show a hanging or internment camp with pics.

    • In my post about the poor choice of names for the Sambo’s restaurant chain, I did show images of the degrading Sambo character to convey the negative history of the name.

      • Leslie

        Good for you for showing the images. Deleting history because it’s something disliked or disapproved of now is a dangerous thing.

  9. Manhattan Girl

    I was wondering about the citations for the comments.

    Thank you for this post. It explains the still low numbers of female chefs. I can only imagine the comments about minorities in these same time periods.

  10. Prejudice against females. Ignorant, and very shortsighted.

    Also, why are you showing a pic of women with low cut outfits?
    No sense in keeping women down by disrespecting them.

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