Chef Mel Lafleur, Corporate Chef, One Horn Developments.

Has The Tide Finally Turned For Women In Restaurant Kitchens?

With a blast of trumpets and flurry of confetti, The New York Times last week announced in a feature article that women have finally broken through the glass ceiling in restaurant kitchens.

The occasion for the fanfare was the appointment of Lauren DeSteno to chef de cuisine from executive sous-chef at Marea, one of New York’s top restaurants. According to The Times, the promotion puts her in charge of one of the highest-earning kitchens in New York, with four male sous-chefs and 20 other cooks reporting to her. 

She is quoted in the article, written by Julia Moskin, saying, “In a good kitchen male and female really doesn’t matter anymore. You get the work done, you handle yourself professionally — because kitchens can still be crazy places — and you go home.”

The article says that while men continue to be more prevalent in professional kitchens, particularly at the highest and lowest rungs of the industry, a new cohort of women like Ms. DeSteno is poised to take over.

More than ever, The Times says, women are filling the second- or third-tier jobs (chef de cuisine, executive sous-chef, etc.) that will produce the next generation of leaders in the nation’s best restaurants, according to statistics and interviews. And more women are entering the pipeline at elite culinary schools.

The Times story contrasts sharply with a National Post article by Gwendolyn Richards publshed last May that says women are still struggling for recognition in the ‘boy’s club’ of Canadian restaurants.

“When I was at school, it was an even playing field,” says Mel Lafleur, corporate chef for One Horn Developments, which owns Below Deck, the Unicorn and the Libertine in Calgary. “Where are they all?”

Richards's article quotes Lafleur and a number of the city’s top chefs who are female, including Connie DeSouza (Charcut), Liana Robberrecht (Petroleum Club) and Andrea Harling (Brava Bistro) who say women continue to struggle for both recognition and senior jobs in Canadian restaurants.

Is Canada really so far behind the US in recognizing chefs who are women, or is The Times piece overly optimistic? Have a read and let us know what you think.

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Photo Credit: 
MRCA/steven curson