April Bloomfield is a chef who's taken the New York restaurant scene by storm. But, she says, "I don't think of being a woman in an industry of men."
The New Yorker's profiles of chefs are always fun, looks at personality and dynamics as much as cuisine — although the description of Bloomfield's gastropub aesthetic as "anal rustic" is memorable. And Bloomfield — profiled by Lauren Collins — is an especially interesting subject, because as a successful woman chef, she's still, sadly, a novelty.This is borne out by the discussion of her hiring, in which her future business partner declared, "Let's get a girl, maybe, or, like, a British chef. I want something the press is going to get a hold of." When you're hired as a novelty, it's hard to get away from that — even if it wasn't your doing.
There's also an implicit contrast drawn between the antics of chefs like Mario Batali (described as "a starfucker") and David Chang, and Bloomfield's unwavering control and professionalism. At one point Bloomfield explains that in her kitchens, despite her perfectionism, "There's not too much ‘you wanker' this or ‘you fucking idiot...It's a waste of time." A stark contrast, then, to the uber-macho posturing of the professional kitchens described in places like Kitchen Confidential.
Throughout the profile, it's impossible to ignore the fact that Bloomfield is, indeed, prospering in a world of few female celebrity chefs. And, indeed, the writer addresses it.
People love to ask Bloomfield what it feels like to be one of the few famous female chefs, but her choice of vocation was more a practicality than a political statement. "I don't think of being a woman in an industry of men," she told me. "I didn't walk into the kitchen and go, ‘Ooh, I'm a girl!' I didn't get into my chosen profession. I wanted to be good at something." Still, I did hear her telling her friend Jessica Boncutter, the chef and owner of Bar Jules, in San Francisco, how pleased she was that some of the women in her kitchen were "wiping the floor" with their male counterparts.
That's probably as good a summary as any: sometimes being good, in a man's world, does mean having to "wipe the floor" occasionally.
Burger Queen [The New Yorker]