As the world progresses we strive to create complete equality. Unfortunately, there is still a long way to go and women and other minorities are still vastly under-represented in many areas. One of these is regrettably in the restaurant and hospitality business. As a traditionally male-dominated sector, the business is making incredible leaps to become more inclusive, but it would be unfair to say there are no barriers for women when it comes to having a career in this sector.
Looking at Michelin stars, the global rating system of the best restaurants in the world, you can see the disparity quite clearly. In 2017 The Independent picked up on this and found that according to the latest ONS figures: “There are more than 250,000 professional chefs in the UK, but only 18.5 per cent of them (around 46,000) of these are women.”
They continue to look at Michelin stars and find: “When it comes to the balance of Michelin stars, it’s even worse. The UK has 172 restaurants with at least one Michelin star – and yet only ten have female head chefs”. This just goes to show that there is still a real lack of female professional chefs in the UK, and this is especially apparent when you look at the higher-end restaurants.
Despite this number seeming dismal, I must note that further on in the interview The Independent claims this is actually a good statistic compared to other gender-balances around the world. From my history and experience, I know this to be true, and that despite the barriers in place the UK is one of the best places in the world for female chefs.
But, how can we become better?
Women of Food
Women of Food intends to help change those statistics. They intend to create a platform that promotes female chefs and their restaurants. In order to do this, they are currently asking female chefs to add themselves to their list, which will be launched later this year.
The group is run by a group of passionate and positive activist women, including food and restaurant journalist Sudi Pigott, film-maker, director and producer Vérane Frédiani, arts event producer Vivienne Huang and French food journalist Estérelle Paynay.
On their website, they give their assurance: “Our promise is to empower women in food to network, collaborate, inspire, mentor and simply have good and delicious fun. We’re committed to connecting passionate foodies, bakers, supper-club and street food cooks and food businesses, as well as those running restaurants.
“We believe in intersectional action to dismantle the glass ceiling in the kitchen, and all matters food, and beyond.”
The team at Women Of Food were recently interviewed by Eater London, and spoke about their launch: “The founders believe that the way female chefs are covered in the media needs to change, as well as the structures that could help them to make a bigger impact.” “How do you think male chefs get Michelin stars?” says Frédiani. “By having investors allowing them to lose money during the first few years, buying the best ingredients for a half-empty restaurant.”
She added: “To get prizes, recognition and time to create, female chefs need investors. The issue for female chefs is not about having kids or not, it is [about] having enough investors to be able to have kids and create new dishes.”
As a woman in the hospitality business, and someone who is passionate about allowing people the opportunity to thrive in any situation I am fully supportive of movements like this that allow and help women promote and aid other women in any way they can. I, as well as many others, know the simple things that can be made much harder by being a woman in the world and like others, I am fully supportive of anyone pursuing to change that.
I hope you can all join me in supporting not only Women of Food for their exceptional perseverance and community, but all women in the industry.