We Asked Male Chefs Why There Are So Few Females in Dutch Kitchens
If we are to believe these Dutch chefs, the absence of women in the kitchen all goes back to classic gender stereotypes.
Photo by Wubbo Siegers.
This article originally appeared in Dutch on MUNCHIES Netherlands.
I once hosted a party where the theme was home appliances. I was dressed as dryer. My two brothers, and the rest of the male participants, found it hilarious to dress up as housewives. It perfectly illustrated how people of my generation still believe, on some level, that women belong in the kitchen.
That stereotype is miraculously reversed when it comes to professional kitchens: here, men are the cooks. Only 10 percent of all cooks in Dutch restaurants are women (and that figure doesn't get much better in most other countries). I am one of those few. Why is there such a lack of femininity in the kitchen? MUNCHIES decided to ask some seasoned male cooks why they think that so few women are in professional kitchens. If we are to believe these guys, the absence of more boobs in the workplace can be traced back to a bastion of gender stereotypes: women cannot do the work physically, women don't like the rough working environment, and woman would rather do other things in life, such as give birth to children and cook for their husbands.
Jason Blanckaert, chief cook and owner of J.E.F. in Ghent
"I think that women often give up the job because of their social life—in my experience at least. Good female cooks often quit their work because the boyfriend, for example, finds it hard to be in second place; his girl is often away from home and that means he has to cook his own food. Women who want children often quit, too. They will then look for another job that still has to do something with food, but one that gives them enough space to care for their partner and children. I can understand this, but it's a pity. All the women with whom I've worked were incredibly good in the kitchen. They bring a nice atmosphere, are usually organisationally strong, punctual, and social. The women that continue to work in the kitchen are often lesbians."
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Dennis Trappenburg, chief cook at GYS in Rotterdam
"It's hard to explain. I think it's mainly because we work long hours, ten to 12 hours a day. Men can continue a little longer than women. Damn, when I say this, it sounds very crazy because I've worked in the kitchen with enough women and none of them had any problems with those days. They're real go-getters. Anyway, overall, it's still more of a male thing to have the strength to work long hours, isn't it? Where I work we have more female cooks than the average kitchen, because our restaurant serves organic food, which attracts female cooks. But yes, I would say strength is the explanation, I think..."
"There are ridiculously few women in the professional kitchen, which is very unfortunate. In my experience, women often have a refreshing look at things. They use more seasonal products, and have more feeling for the aesthetic aspect of cuisine. However, working in the kitchen remains physical work: you have to stand and work hard for long periods. It might sound jerky, but this is easier for men. Standing for 12 hours straight is more difficult for a woman, because women are just built differently. Really, don't get me wrong; it's also because of the hard culture in the kitchen. You don't ask nicely if you may pass, but you shout: 'MOVE!' Women find it harder to cope with that. I think these two reasons are the explanation."
"I want more women in the kitchen. They don't necessarily all have to be beautiful, though that would be a bonus, of course. Women, and diversity in the kitchen in general, are good for the energy of the workplace. A team of only women doesn't always work, but a team of only men is terrible. Dirty jokes all day! However, women can do that as well. It's hard to find female cooks, and I think this is because women like to do something more valuable. It's also because women are more intelligent, I think. They need more stimuli to be encouraged. Men want to create something nice and don't care about repetitive work as much as women do."
Renee Heijnen, chief cook at Restaurant Muziekcafé 't Oude Pothuys in Utrecht
"There are a few famous female chefs. They are very good. However, it's physically still quite difficult for a woman to reach the top. Once you do, you can concentrate more on other things, such as doing work from behind the desk and delegating things. But you start as a dishwasher, and that means doing the dirty job first. Girls don't want that. From what I've seen, I think only 1 percent of all chefs are female. Most go into catering. There, I think that about 60 percent are men and 40 percent are women. This work is less difficult for a woman. There are fixed working hours, so you can also combine the job with taking care of your family. I often see that women choose to work during the day. I think that the traditional gender roles for men and women still play a role: the woman has to take care of her family. Working in the kitchen is tough; you have to stand your ground, and I think many women find it hard to cope with that. Well, now I sound really mean, and that's absolutely not my intention. Women just want to be home in the evening and care for the children, rather than sweat in a kitchen."