It’s Time to Get Rid of the 'Female Chef' Category

Female Chef.jpg

Yesterday The World’s 50 Best Restaurants announced The World’s Best Female Chef.”  

It’s not a new category by any means, but it begs the question - should there be a separate category for women chefs in 2019?

I reached out to +40 top chefs and restaurateurs in Toronto to find out their thoughts on the matter.

Here’s what the respondents had to say:

“At the end of the day, chefs whether female or male, work in the same kitchens, they learn the same systems and build on the same skills, with the same end goals, serving food and hospitality to the best of their abilities, therefor Best Female Chef should not be a category on its own. The Best Chef category should have more female representation.”

Rocco Agostino - Executive Chef/Partner, Pizzeria Libretto


“Having a separate category for female chefs makes no sense. There’s no need to differentiate based on gender – this should be a recognition based on skill. Separate categories continue to alienate us versus creating a culture of inclusivity.

 There is no reason to have separate categories for "Best Chef" in my opinion. Unlike sporting events, physical strength is not an issue in determining the accomplishments of chefs. I believe that judging panels should be comprised equally of men and women.

 I also think that there should be consideration given to account for/control the inherent biases of judges towards fellow chefs with whom judges have worked, are friends, etc.” 

Jen Coburn - Owner, Ufficio Restaurant


“Most chefs will tell you their biggest culinary inspiration was their mother or grandmother, and yet professional female chefs are consistently overlooked for the same opportunities afforded to male chefs. That we have to separate out accolades for female chefs points to a larger problem within the industry -- of the 50 restaurants featured in this list, only 4 of them are headed up by women. They've put the same blood, sweat and tears in (probably more so).   

When we create separate categories to recognize their hard work and dedication, it creates a space of "other" that suggests they do not belong with the main group. These women stand on their own merit and deserve the same recognition and accolades as their male counterparts."

Donna Dooher - Chef/Co-Owner, Mildred’s Temple Kitchen


 “Having a separate category for female chefs makes no sense. There’s no need to differentiate based on gender – this should be a recognition based on skill. Separate categories continue to alienate us versus creating a culture of inclusivity.”

Ted Corrado - Corporate Executive Chef, Drake Hotel Properties


“I think it’s nice that females have their own category because it highlights them in a male dominant industry, but at the same time we should be regarded as chefs as a whole.

Unfortunately, there’s so many of us that get over looked that we need a separate category. But I do feel we should have just a chef category that includes both.” 

Debbie Dam- Sous Chef, Founder Cocktail Bar and Restaurant


“So I think it’s obviously amazing that women chefs are being recognized and applauded for the work they are doing. But I find it troubling that there are separate categories. It’s not like sports, where physiology is completely different. I feel like it sends a message that in the cooking world men and women still aren’t in the same arena - that somehow the women’s category still feels lesser.  

That being said, if the categories were combined, would women still be as recognized? Or would it remain such a male dominated industry?

It really is something I am struggling to decide a firm opinion on.”

Ash MacNeil - Chef, Farmhouse Tavern


Oof, the subject of labeling women chefs as a separate category. MIXED FEELINGS for sure.  It feels archaic to me.

I am conflicted about labeling female chefs as it's own identity or category, I mean we (women) are just people too. I think the idea of having to label "Female Chefs" as it's own identity becomes a confusing subject because the idea (I'd imagine) is to be more inclusive, where as I think it actually makes us more excluded and separate. This is going to sound so rude, but it's like "well then where do you draw the line? Female Chefs, Chefs of colour, Chefs of a certain sexual orientation?" You know what I mean? I tend to think in extremes sometimes, so maybe it's not like that at all, but that's how it seems (also I'm not advocating for categories of this nature). 

I think of people as just being people, we're all capable of learning and achieving the same things (with some perhaps physical limitations that can exist between people generally), when we start being separated into categories that don't have anything to do with our careers themselves, then we're doing just that, we're separating ourselves.  

I realize women through every walk of life have not been, and still aren't, viewed as fully equal to our male counterparts. It happens in our careers and in our personal lives. We have made progress before, and are making progress still.  

I agree that women should be celebrated for our achievements in life, as should anyone else who is paving the way for like minded others. I don't mean to discredit anyone who has been awarded something for being a woman either, I just think the system is flawed. We're trained to think of each other as opposites. I think were it becomes complicated for me is in thinking, okay perhaps we need these sorts of labels to show that we too are equally as talented, capable, creative, hardworking, etc. etc., but ultimately the more labels we build on each other and ourselves, the harder it may be to remove those labels later and just be seen as individuals. 

I hope this makes some sort of sense. I just find this subject a little grey at times vs having definitive outlines.”

Meghan Robbins - Chef de Cusine, Superpoint


“I don’t think the Bro Culture is quite mature enough yet to sit down for a minute and let someone else play center. So yeah, women should get the extra recognition, even if we wish it weren’t necessary for the prefix. Especially with this insanity of conservatives in power trying to dismantle women’s autonomy. It’s important that young women or non-male identifying aspiring chefs can see and hear their heroes, when the bullies are pushing their hardest and yelling their loudest.”

Andy Wilson - Chef, Pinkerton’s Snack Bar, Poor Romeo, and The Vatican Gift Shop


Share YOUR thoughts on the issue on Toronto Restaurants FB page and Instagram.