This article was written by one of our summer interns, Erica Pais. Erica is spending the summer assisting the marketing team while she also develops her project, Baking Connections. She is a rising senior at Colgate University.
In the fall of 2013, Time published an issue called “Gods of Food,” profiling some of the most influential chefs in the culinary world. You may have heard about the glaring problem, though: while the issue mentioned a mere four women in their coverage, none were chefs.
In the days and weeks following the issue’s release, high profile critiques rolled in including this one from Paula Forbes at Eater, which called attention to the absence of incredible female chefs from Time’s list. This lack of female representation, though, was no isolated incident.
As Forbes noted in her critique, food media coverage regularly shortchanges female chefs. The fact is that kickass female chefs do exist and they are making huge waves in kitchens across the country--and world. Individuals like Barbara Lynch, the second woman to win the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Restaurateur, Queen Alice Waters who practically invented California cuisine and pioneered the local food movement, and Niki Nakayama, owner of n/naka (featured on Netflix’s Chef’s Table) are just a couple of examples of women who have shown the world that they most definitely qualify for "god" status.
But that's just chefs. The food world tends to self-reflect by looking at restaurant trends--and the kitchen is a notoriously hostile place to be a woman. Overlooked female chefs aside, the food world is teeming with talented women that have taken different paths. The professionals and influencers that make a splash with everyday food-lovers (aka the folks spending money at those restaurants), are overwhelmingly female.
In contrast to “Gods of Food,” publications like Cherry Bombe have popped up in the subsequent years. Their work does justice to women that are absolutely killing the food scene (check out their podcast here--I'm obsessed). Cherry Bombe is led by Claudia Wu and Kerry Diamond, two women with some serious food chops.
There's also Food52, founded in 2010 by former New York Times cookbook editors Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, which now employs an all-female editorial staff. While we're on the editorial track, we'll also give a shout-out to Tejal Rao. The reporter and restaurant critic recently joined the New York Times after a stint at Bloomberg--her restaurant reviews were among the only female voices in the game for years, since Kim Severson stepped down six years ago. Not to mention, Rao is also one of the only people of color in restaurant criticism.
Even beyond traditional media and restaurants, women make up the majority of social media food influencers and bloggers. In our network alone, which is just a portion of the humongous number of bloggers out there, 24 million people visit recipes every month. Whether walking a cooking newbie through a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe or introducing a well-seasoned expert to the magic of poaching eggs, food bloggers teach the world to cook from home and inspire people to create and innovate in the kitchen.
As a baker myself, I am completely self-taught. While I have dreamt about befriending celebrity chefs like Christina Tosi that would take me under their wing, I more realistically have shifted my gaze online for recipes. It was thanks to food blogs that I perfected my macaron technique at 19-years-old and learned how to swirl peanut butter and chocolate buttercream frostings together onto a fluffy banana cupcake. I follow multiple bloggers on Instagram and eagerly await their posts so that I can try my hand at a new challenge.
While many readers, like myself, appreciate the voices and artisans behind the content, bigger brands take advantage of food bloggers every day. This lack of credit where credit is due strikes a glaring resemblance to what happens with female chefs in professional kitchens.
Take, for example, Buzzfeed's "Tasty" videos. Billions of viewers watch the videos on Facebook, yet never see the original source for the recipe--often food writers and bloggers whose work is being used and monetized without their permission. Food bloggers miss out on credit and therefore miss out on well-deserved traffic. Instead of continuing to read a blogger’s other content, the general public follows Buzzfeed Tasty, hungry for more.
As an industry we need to do better. How? By handing over the microphone to women in the industry to hear their stories. Sharing in this way can only help women feel more comfortable in the kitchen, encourage more women to take risks in the field, and diversify food for the better.
Ready to do your part? Below are some organizations and resources that are doing amazing work. Show your support!
- Cherry Bombe: a publication and podcast that celebrates women in food. They also have a yearly jubilee that is all kinds of awesome.
- Toklas Society: "a network of women in the food and hospitality industry." Keep an eye out for their mentorship program or join their Facebook group for industry updates and job postings.
- New York Women's Culinary Alliance: a membership-based association that hosts events and provides resources to women in the culinary industries in NYC.
Know of some other resources for women in the food industry? Let us know about them in the comments!