Time has done their due diligence and, following the controversy over their very male-heavy Gods of Food issue, continued the conversation by interviewing female chefs about sexism in the food industry. Who's a major culprit? As we posited yesterday, members of the media.
As author Belinda Luscombe notes in her follow-up piece that data indicates that women make up almost half of students attending the Culinary Institute of America and a fifth of female chefs working around the country. "As a mirror of the world of food, TIME's list was flawed," she correctly notes.
Chef Amanda Cohen of Dirt Candy, who responded to Time's list twice, first with a piece on Eater and then in the New York Times, thinks that the onus lies with the limited representation of female chefs in lists like Time's:
"I haven't encountered any sexism in the kitchen," she says. "The media chooses not to write about women. If there's a male chef and there's a female chef, the journalist will always choose to talk about the male chef first."
Barbara Lynch, who was mentioned in Eater's interview with Time's editor Howard-Chua-Eoan as a possible chef-owner worthy of inclusion, said that in making her own career decisions, she's had to shift away from her natural instinct to avoid attention for her work:
"I used to think the fame part was a pain in the ass. I thought it took too much and it was too phony. Now I will grasp the fame and the public image because I think I can inspire people," she says. "It's not about me anymore. It's about the next generation. We need more women in this business." She's encouraged the female chefs who work for her to go on shows like Top Chef. And they've done pretty well.
Other chefs Time spoke with – many of whom reached out to the magazine themselves – felt that choices about family and lifestyle affected women more than men in the food industry, and thought any ignoring the media has done of female chefs is only representative of what they face in the kitchens they work in. But Alice Waters, who was considered the most obvious candidate excluded from Time's issue, says the issue is more nuanced:
"I think it's a matter of how we go about our reviewing of restaurants. Is it really about three star places and expensive eccentric cuisine? The restaurants that are most celebrated are never the ones that are the simple places." In her view a chart that simply looks at what restaurants spawn what other restaurants is too narrow. "If you think about that differently and include writers and cooking school teachers and of course farmers, you're talking about different kind of family tree in the end. They aren't the superstars but those are the people who are the backbone of really great food."
Luscombe refers what Waters is discussing as "soft power," a type of power that "doesn't lend itself readily to lists. It's less noticeable to the media." She ends with another quote from Waters, who says, "I felt like the things that are important to me and to many people on the planet were not celebrated in that article. If we celebrated food for what it should be celebrated for, women would just naturally rise to the top." While it's not the responsibility per se of media organizations to control the sexism that occurs within individual kitchens, they can try to accurately represent a nation full of women cooking. That's not advocacy; that's doing a good job.
Images via Getty/Time