Monday, May 20, 2013

What’s Cooking? Sadly, Not Professional Lady Chefs

Honey, what's for dinner?
Like most men, I don’t cook a lick. That is, unless I decide to. Then all of a sudden I’m Top Chef. Sound familiar? It's funny how that works; men get a pass on having to cook. Or rather we give ourselves a pass by declaring we won't do it. Some of us add insult to injury by tacking on that preparing food is women’s work. Or that we can’t do it because we work all day at the office or factory. For the record, I’m personally not that much of a caveman. Nevertheless, I do have an ever-growing distaste for all of this opting out at home and here's why.

              When it comes to doing what we want and when we want, men stand at the top of the heap. No brag, just fact. In general, we get to dictate how things go or won't go. What we will and won't do. Case in point, cooking. It’s something most men simply refuse to do. Unless…

              What happens when you dispense generous portions of money and power into the mixing bowl? All of the sudden, real men cook. In the blink of an eye we know best, cook best and are the supreme chefs on the planet. What a crock(pot) of hogwash.

              Another fact: according to a 2010 report, women comprise just 10 percent of the executive chef positions in America and earn on average 17 percent less than their male counterparts doing the same job. Why is that? Power and privilege. And that other dreaded p-word: patriarchy.
Old boy's network is in full effect

              Even when money isn’t on the menu – like at a backyard barbeque or ballgame tailgate, who’s usually on the grill? A man. Why? Yet another p-word: Prestige. The grill is often the center of attention and you get to handle oversized tongs. Plus an open flame is involved. Ooo…, the danger.

              But it's no laughing matter how women get the short end of the stick with great regularity when it comes to culinary work, be it at home or in the workplace. In large part, men get to decide if and when we want to participate. If it’s at home and nobody’s looking, forget it. If there's power and prestige involved, suddenly there’s no one better for the job than a man.

              I'd venture to say it's like that with most vocational endeavors. I realize I'm discussing things women already know and understand. It's just that it’s important we serve this up and on the table for everyone to taste. I say that because there are some men out there who truly believe that they can't cook. Or that cooking (and cleaning) is only a woman's job. Again, unless there's money in it.

Chef Kimberly: a rare exception
              Some argue cooking is an historically traditional role for women, and that if it’s worked up until now, why change? But I’d counter with another question: worked for who? Another question: why when you introduce money and power into the equation, does all that tradition fly out the window and suddenly men are the only ones who are qualified to run a kitchen?

              Sure, you've got Rachael Ray, Paula Deen and other women who have wildly popular TV cooking shows. And yes they make a lot of money. But neither has run a restaurant kitchen. That’s not a slam but rather another serious sobering fact.

              This disparity has to change; not just among professional chefs but across all sectors where women are systematically excluded from top jobs. A double standard exists and the time has long since come for it to stop.

              Equality. It’s what’s for dinner.

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