Marco Pierre White, celebrity chef and TV presenter, is facing criticism for saying that women cannot handle the pressure of working in professional kitchens. During an interview with the Irish Independent, the chef said, “The real positive with men is that men can absorb pressure better, that’s the main difference because they are not as emotional and they don’t take things personally.” Also suggesting that women are physically inefficient for the task, he added, “Look at the size of some of the pans you are carrying. Can you imagine you’re a lady in the kitchen and saying: ‘Will you carry that pan for me?’” If you ask me, the only thing that doesn’t belong in professional kitchens is the misogynist attitude of the likes of White, who make it impossible for women chefs to find acceptance and appreciation from their own community, no matter how skilled they are.
- Chef Marco Pierre White has said that women are ‘too emotional’ to work in professional kitchens.
- He also suggested that they were physically unequipped for the heavy lifting associated with the job.
- Haven’t we all seen our aunts, mums and grandmas brave heat and ungodly hours to cook for decades?
- Does patriarchy want us in the kitchen only when it suits its agenda?
White has been called a “rambling dinosaur” for his comments, a moniker one hopes follows him into distant future, to remind him how outdated his views are.
Time and again being ‘emotional’ is an excuse used to keep women out of male dominated places. Be it higher positions in the corporate sector, or in this case professional kitchens. Women’s sentimental attitude, which in itself is a generalisation, is seen as a shortcoming, because, clearly an emotional person is weak. Weak to be able to handle not just pressure but the haughty and hostile environment which chefs like White have created.
For someone who has now cooked in a kitchen for more than half her life now, it angers me to see women cooks being written off as emotional and weak. I have grown up watching grandmothers, aunts and my mother prepare feats for dozens of people. And heaving heavy bags of raw material and utensils, without much fuss. They would work through hours, and cooking a meal wasn’t where the job ended, as they would proceed to serve it to the guests too.
The only thing that doesn’t belong in professional kitchens is the misogynist attitude of the likes White, who make it impossible for women chefs to find acceptance and appreciation from their own community, no matter how skilled they are.
Most of them still do this in their fifties and sixties, and only sit down for their meal once everyone else is done. There are always times when something would go wrong with the process, shortage of raw material, execution gone wrong, or a mishap in the kitchen which would lead to spilling. These ladies would power through everything, and ensure that no one left the house hungry. Many may point out at the underlying patriarchy here, but that doesn’t take away the grit, affection and strength women show when cooking.
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So when I see women in the kitchen, I see strength, stamina, patience and endurance. I do see emotions, but these emotions only help women, and even men to be more giving when they cook. Naturally, women take these strengths and qualities to professional kitchens with them. They don’t need assistance to lift their pans for them as well. And this isn’t something specific to our country, worldwide, the nonnas and aunts and cousins can cook their way through sweltering days and ungodly hours. They cook for love, and for the happiness of those they love.
And yet, why do we see so fewer women in the professional kitchens? Because patriarchy only wants us in them when it suits its agenda. Kitchen duties are woman’s job inside the house, but step outside of it and put a price chore and suddenly we are ‘too emotional’ for the job? Things are changing now, as more and more women step out to claim their space in the world that lies outside their homes, and they are breaking glass ceilings every day. Patriarchy does put up a resistance. It projects our feminine traits as some kind of a handicap. Women are too emotional to cook, to learn science, to manage money, to wear a uniform. It’s tiring and demoralising, but we can’t give up. We have a long way, and sooner or later the doors of professional kitchens will be held open much wider for us than they are today.
Image Credit: The Daily Meal
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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.