When you look at the world’s top chefs, the majority are male. You might ask yourself, why is this so? Well, I’ve been asking myself this question for some time and therefore have been making observations at all sorts of people who cook – friends and family, professional and amateur cooks, famous and ordinary. As a matter of fact, the world’s most famous (and top earning) chefs are men, at least most of them. It can easily be seen that men have far excelled in the area of professional cooking. But how about home cooking, are men performing the same or better at home. I am not sure about this… And are they (men) better than women at every aspect of cooking? Again, I am not sure about this, either.
I have heard all sorts of arguments, reflecting the stand point of both sides. Many women would say: “Some women’s cooking at home is often so poor because it is largely performed as a matter of necessity.” or “Women pay more attention to detail and therefore are superior to men in the kitchen” or “There are many more famous male chefs around the world than there are female, just as there are famous music composers, orchestra conductors and artists, but that is not to say women can’t cook, write music, and conduct orchestras. It’s just that there are fewer of them going professional.”
Whereas men often state: “When cooking, men are more creative.” Or “In this environment (professional kitchens) men can carry a heavier burden.” or “At home, woman’s cooking is better (especially not working woman) and in the restaurant, men cook better.”
And the list goes on and on…
I have a few theories, all of which will, no doubt, sound controversial to somebody. But hey, read on and make up your own mind.
The first thing you need to do is differentiate professional cooking from home cooking. These two are so different that you cannot measure them with the same yardstick.
The average housewife is will cook around 1000 meals in the course of a year. Thus, cooking is not a luxury pastime, but simply another item in the long list of household chores that needs to be ticked off with efficiency and speed. There is clearly little time or energy left after a day full of tasks to prepare a serious piece of gastronomy. And most women usually rustle up a dinner that is quick, dull, but relatively nutritious.
On the other hand, when a family sees friends for dinner, nine times out of ten it is the man who cooks – and it is usually a brilliant job. Though I suspect that on that day the man will not have shopped for it, cleaned the house, or fed and looked after the children, nor is there a chance that he’ll do the washing up afterwards.
In regards to home cooking I think men have more of a creative edge for it. Also, they enjoy food more and do not have the guilt association with food like women do. They approach food as a pleasure well deserved, while women often have a love-hate relationship with food.
The downsides of men cooking at home, is that they love to make use of lots of gadgets and toys in their cooking, while messing up the whole kitchen beyond recognition. Also, in majority of cases, their cooking is not accompanied with any other work such as shopping or washing up. Last but not least, the food will be brought to the table with the sort of fanfare that will suite the Olympic Games opening ceremony, after which, all talk is about how they created their masterpiece.
Talking about women, their cooking at home is more precise, they follow instructions more carefully than men do. Also, they do not waste time weighing up the qualities of thyme versus tarragon, while empting a bottle of wine.
Downsides of women’s cooking at home are that they are less inclined to experiment and take risks.
The fact is that more men become chefs than women. Restaurant kitchens have traditionally been male-dominated and it’s only been in the last 10-15 years that we have started to see, to their credit, the emergence of women as head chefs and restaurant owners. And this is so for a reason. Being a chef is anything but easy. It takes a rare breed to answer the call: you need more than a passion for the art of creating delicious food, the endurance to work long hours on your feet in a hot kitchen, the strength of will to lead a kitchen crew like a general, the desire to satisfy even the most discerning guests, and not just cook stuff you think is cool.
Working as a professional chef, you soon come to understand that the phrase “if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen” is anything but a metaphor. And it applies to far more than merely the physical environment you work in. Being a chef is physically, mentally and emotionally demanding, all the time. It’s a highly pressurized and competitive environment.
And this is where the majority of women chefs fail… and, thank God, there are exceptions.
In addition, men chefs are more experimental and innovative, and are more inclined to taking risks. This is not to be confused with cooking pink food and using edible flowers, which is too niche or feminine, it is your choice how you call it. But your food should not be either of these two. This is where sometimes women chefs fail too.
Last, I understand that women chefs cook with their hearts and souls, which is certainly not a bad thing, but a healthy portion of practicality and realism, are also needed for running a successful kitchen and building a career in this super competitive and tough, male dominated environment.
My (miscellaneous) observations:
- Anyone with a passion for food and a good source of ingredients can be a good cook.
- If blind tasting a dish in a restaurant, you will never say whether the dish was cooked by a man or a woman. In fact you will not guess even if you have a proper and examining look at the dish.
- Cooking styles are a function of experience, personality, and only after that of gender.