How many female chefs do you know? I know one. But she recently gave it up after hating the unsociable hours, never having a weekend and working with a constantly changing team that were just not up to the mark. And it’s no surprise. We all know kitchen staff work 70-plus hours a week, split shifts, super-early mornings and hideously late nights (hours which are not solely confined to chefs). But it’s not just normal working hours that are lacking in professional cooking: women are too.
Master chef Fernand Point, who is thought to be the father of French cuisine, once said: “Only men have the technique, discipline and passion that makes cooking consistently an art.” That was in 1950, the heyday of the housewife. But we can’t brush it off as archaic. Albeit in 2005, Gordon Ramsey said: “There are a huge number of women who know how to mix cocktails, but can’t cook to save their lives.” Why is that, when traditionally around the world – and throughout history – women are home cooks, providing the essential lifeline that is daily meals. Men are seen as the professionals and women are cast in their shadow as mere amateurs who only robotically serve meals to family and friends.
There are more than 250,000 professional chefs in the UK, but only 18.5 per cent of them (around 46,000) of these are women, according to the latest ONS figures. And what’s worse is that this is a decline from the previous year, where in 2015, 20.5 per cent of the total number were female. Going back to 2001 there were 126,000 women (48 per cent) who made up the chef workforce, which fell to 107,000 nine years later.
But it’s not like the food industry is failing. It’s bigger than ever. More people go out for food than before and spend more than £4,000 a year on doing so. Outside of the kitchen, we are surrounded by inspiring chefs and cooks who encourage aspiring chefs with handfuls of new cookbooks that are published each month – too much to keep up with. And our TV channels are full of programmes from The Great British Bake Off – which dominated TV rating in 2016 with just shy of 14 million viewers – to Saturday Kitchen which lost a million viewers (almost half of their 2.4 million) following host James Martin’s departure last summer.
Aside from Martin, there’s a huge swathe of other men who have their own TV programmes, cook books and are regulars on other food-based TV shows – and it’s hard to look past the fact the majority of them are white males: Rick Stein, Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsey and Marco Pierre White. Yes we all love Delia Smith and Mary Berry, but despite the latter being trained at The Cordon Bleu in Paris, she still has the “home-cook” stigma firmly attached and is our go-to for the perfect Victoria sponge, while Smith is “known as a teacher of basic cookery skills” according to her rather insulting Wikipedia page.
When it comes to the balance of Michelin stars, it’s even worse. The UK has 172 restaurants with at least one Michelin star – and yet only ten have female head chefs.
The first woman to be awarded a Michelin star in the UK in 1998, Tessa Bramley, is also known for her desserts. She’s the executive chef of the Old Vicarage restaurant in Sheffield and has been there for 30 years.
Outside of the UK there are even less, which makes it even more notable that Flanders-born Flemish-speaking Karen Keygnaert, the only female chef to be awarded one of the stars who also has an entirely female staff in her restaurant A’Qi – rejected it after saying what it represents is outdated. But she’s not the only chef to refuse it, as Jason Blanckaert and Vincent Florizoone didn’t want one either.
Back in the UK, Clare Smyth is the first woman in the UK to be awarded three Michelin stars and a perfect 10 in the coveted Good Food Guide and ironically trained under Ramsey, while Hélène Darroz’s restaurant at the Connaught Hotel in London has managed to bag two Michelin stars, and in 2015 former Masterchef contestant Kim Woodward became the first women to be head chef at London’s Savoy grill.
Food and drink news
Food and drink news
1/31 Gluten-free diets 'not recommended' for people without coeliac disease
Avoiding wheat, barley and rye in the belief that a gluten-free diet brings health benefits may do more harm than good, according to a team of US nutrition and medicine experts
2/31 Starbucks launches two new coffee-based drinks
Starbucks is launching two new coffee-based drinks in the UK, as it strives to tap into consumers’ growing appetite for healthy beverages. The Cold Brew Vanilla sweet cream and the Cappuccino Freddo, will both be available in stores throughout the UK from the start of May
3/31 Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Tiffin is making a permanent comeback after 80 years
The Cadbury Dairy Milk Tiffin, first produced in 1937, is making a permanent comeback to the UK. The raisin and biscuit-filled chocolate bar is being launched after a successful trial last summer saw 3 million chocolate treats – at the cost of £1.49 for each 95g bar- purchased by nostalgic customers
4/31 Pizza restaurant makes ‘world’s cheesiest’
'Scottie's Pizza Parlor' in Portland Oregon has created the world’s cheesiest pizza using a total of 101 different cheese varieties.
Facebook/Scottie's Pizza Parlor
5/31 A pizza joint in Portland Oregon has created the world’s cheesiest pizza using a total of 101 different cheese varieties. Why not eating before a workout could be better for your health
A study published in the American Journal of Physiology by researchers at the University of Bath found you might be likely to burn more fat if you have not eaten first
6/31 New York restaurant named best in the world
A New York restaurant where an average meal for two will cost $700 has been named the best in the world. Eleven Madison Park won the accolade for the first time after debuting on the list at number 50 in 2010. The restaurant was praised for a fun sense of fine-dining, “blurring the line between the kitchen and the dining room”
7/31 Why you crave bad food when you’re tired
Researchers at Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University in Chicago recently presented their results of a study looking into the effects of sleep deprivation upon high-calorific food consumption. Researchers found that those who were sleep-deprived had “specifically enhanced” brain activity to the food smells compared to when they had a good night’s sleep
8/31 Drinking wine engages more of your brain than solving maths problems
Drinking wine is the ideal workout for your brain, engaging more parts of our grey matter than any other human behaviour, according to a leading neuroscientist. Dr Gordon Shepherd, from the Yale School of Medicine, said sniffing and analysing a wine before drinking it requires “exquisite control of one of the biggest muscles in the body”
9/31 British dessert eating surges after people ditch healthy eating in February
: In heartening news for anyone feeling guilty about quitting their New Year diet, it seems lots of us have given in to our sweet tooths once again. New data from nationwide food-delivery service Deliveroo reveals there was a surge in Brits ordering desserts in February compared to the first month of 2017
10/31 US congress debates definition of milk alternatives
A new bill has been created that seeks to ban dairy alternatives from using the term ‘milk’. Titled the DAIRY PRIDE Act, the name is a tenuous acronym for ‘defending against imitations and replacements of yogurt, milk, and cheese to promote regular intake of dairy every day’. It argues that the dairy industry is struggling as a result of all the dairy-free alternatives on the market and the public are being duped too
11/31 Cadbury’s launches two new chocolate bars
UK confectionary giant Cadbury has launched two new chocolate bars, hoping to lure those with a sweet tooth and perhaps help combat some of the challenges it faces from rising commodity prices and a post-Brexit slump in the value of the pound.The company’s new products will be peanut butter and mint flavoured. They will be available in most major super markets as 120g bars, priced at £1.49, according to the company
12/31 You can now get a job as a professional chocolate eater
The company responsible for some of your favourite chocolate brands – think Cadbury, Milks, Prince and Oreo – have officially announced an opening to join their team as a professional chocolate taster. The successful candidate will help them to test, perfect and launch new products all over the world.
13/31 MSG additive used in Chinese food is actually good for you, scientist claims
For years, we’ve been told MSG (the sodium salt of glutamic acid) - often associated with cheap Chinese takeaways - is awful for our health and to be avoided at all costs. But one scientist argues it should be used as a “supersalt” and encourages adding it to food.
14/31 Lettuce prices are rising
Not only are lettuces becoming an increasingly rare commodity in supermarkets, but prices for the leafy vegetables seem to be rising too. According to the weekly report from the Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, a pair of Little Gem lettuces had an average market price of £0.86 in the week that ended on Friday, up from an average of £0.56 in the previous week – that’s an almost 54 per cent increase.
15/31 Food School
Kids celebrate Food School graduation with James Martin – a campaign launched by Asda to educate young people on where food comes from. New research has revealed that children across the UK just aren’t stepping up to the plate when it comes to simple facts about the food they eat – with almost half of children under eight not knowing that eggs come from chickens
16/31 ‘Do-It-Yourself’ restaurant
To encourage more people to cook and eat together, IKEA has launched The Dining Club in Shoreditch – a fully immersive ‘Do-It-Yourself’ restaurant . Members of the public can book to host a brunch, lunch or dinner party for up to 20 friends and family. Supported by their very own sous chef and maître de, the host and their guests will orchestrate an intimate dining experience where cooking together is celebrated and eating together is inspirational
Mikael Buck / IKEA
17/31 Ping Pong menu with a twist
Gatwick Airport has teamed up with London dim sum restaurant Ping Pong to create a limited edition menu with a distinctly British twist; including a Full English Bao and Beef Wellington Puff, to celebrate the launch of the airport’s new route to Hong Kong
18/31 Zizzi unveil the Ma’amgharita
Unique pizza art has been created by Zizzi in celebration of the Queen’s 90th birthday. The pizza features the queen in an iconic pose illustrated with fresh and tasty Italian ingredients on a backdrop of the Union Jack
19/31 Blue potatoes make a comeback
Blue potatoes, once a staple part of British potato crops, are back on the menu thanks to a Cambridge scientist turned-organic farmer and Farmdrop, an online marketplace that lets people buy direct from local farms. Cambridge PhD graduate-turned farmer, Adrian Izzard has used traditional growing techniques at Wild Country Organics to produce the colourful spuds, packed with healthy cell-protecting anthocyanin, which had previously disappeared from UK plates when post-war farmers were pushed towards higher-yielding varieties
20/31 France plans to usurp Scotland as the home of the world's best whisky
France is planning to usurp Scotland’s reputation as the home of the world’s best whisky, fired by a growing national obsession with the drink. According to a study by retail consultants Bonial, the French drink more whisky than any other country – an average of 2.15 litres a year, compared to 1.8 litres in second-placed Uruguay and the US in third on 1.4 litres
Bloomberg via Getty Images
21/31 The price of an avocado is set to rise
Britain’s avocado lovers are facing a significant increase in the cost of their favourite salad food because the so-called superfood is becoming too popular. High demand from health-conscious consumers has led Peru to triple its avocado exports since 2010, with exports to the UK up 58% over the past year
22/31 Eating cereal may not be the healthiest way to start the day
The old saying goes that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so many of us do as we are told and grab a bowl of cereal before we head out the door. But an expert has warned that while many cereals boxes claim their contents are the perfect start to the day, many are packed full of sugar and carbohydrates with little nutritional value. Even some seemingly-health muesli cereals have a lot of added sugar in the form of honey, malt, molasses, dried fruit or “even fruit juice”
23/31 Crisps made with real ingredients
Michelin starred chef, Simon Rogan in action cooking a menu inspired by the provenance ingredients in the new Chef’s Signature range from Kettle Chips. Kettle Chips, the nation’s favourite premium crisp brand, has launched the new range of crisps with exciting new seasonings, made with the highest quality food ingredients rather than chemicals or artificial flavours
24/31 Japanese whisky crisis
Suntory’s chief blender Mr. Fukuyo San blends component whiskies to create Suntory Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve, a blend of young and old single malts. Japan’s warm climate and varied seasons makes it perfect environment to age and blend whiskies, creating subtle, refined and complex expressions.The recent trend for Japanese whisky has put the spirit on the verge of a global shortage
25/31 Non-alcoholic cocktails are seriously chic
We are living through a new era of creative, non-alcoholic drinks that go way beyond a coke or sweet mocktail. The world is becoming more health conscious. There's the war on sugar, and teetotalism is on the rise, with more than one in five not drinking at all (especially young adults), according to The National Statistics for Adult Drinking Habits. This abstinence is even more pronounced in London, with almost one in three turning away from alcohol. An increasing number of mixologists are applying their talents to the creation of non-alcoholic drinks that taste as good as their boozy alternatives
26/31 'Heat map' shows which areas of Britain enjoy the spiciest curries
After Bradford was named the Curry Capital of Britain for the fifth year running, a map has been released showing which regions of Britain enjoy a spicy curry and which prefer the milder variants. According to the map developed by Hari Ghotra, Kent, Essex, West Yorkshire and Lancashire are the heat-handling kings of Britain, while Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales all prefer milder curries. The data was collected by monitoring the location of social media posts that mentioned names of curries. These were then given a spice rating and were then collated to give each area a score out of 1000
27/31 Guinness to become vegan-friendly
Guinness is set to become vegan friendly for the first time in its 256-year history, as the company announced its plan to stop using fish bladders in its filters
28/31 Why the salmon on your plate might not actually be salmon
Salmon that ends up on the dinner table may not be salmon at all, a study has suggested. The problem of salmon mislabelling has become an increasing issue in the US in the winter months, according to American research published by Oceana. The findings show that 43 per cent of the salmon tested was mislabelled – the most common instance of this being when farmed Atlantic salmon was sold as wild salmon
29/31 How dangerous is a bacon sandwich
A recent WHO report warning that processed and red meats can cause cancer may have left you thinking a little harder about whether to pick up that bacon butty for breakfast or ditch a beef-filled Bolognese for dinner - but how worried should we be? The review of 800 studies for the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) prompted global health experts to cast processed meats - including bacon, ham and sausages - into the ominous-sounding list of group 1 carcinogens, where they joined formaldehyde, gamma radiation and cigarettes. Eating just a 50g portion of processed meat – or two rashers of bacon - a day increases the risk of bowel cancer by 18 per cent, the experts concluded
30/31 New Zealanders are behind a lot of the interesting food and drink stuff happening in the UK
Dark beers are more suited to cold months, so the thinking goes, but in one part of the world they're always popular. "Lots of breweries in New Zealand have got stouts and porters among their best sellers," says Stu McKinlay, one half of the duo behind Wellington brewing company Yeastie Boys. McKinlay recently swapped Wellington for west Kent in order to launch Yeastie Boys in the UK, and he's joined forces with four other breweries (8 Wired, Renaissance, Three Boys, Tuatara) as part of the New Zealand Craft Beer Collective, to promote his country's finest over here
31/31 Additives in popular chicken nuggets
Ingredients, a new book co-created by photographer Dwight Eschliman and food writer Steve Ettlinger distils 25 products, including popcorn, Red Bull and chicken soup, focusing on 75 of the most common food additives and revealing what each one looks like, where it comes from and why it is used. McDonald’s chicken nuggets were found to contain 40 different ingredients. These included dextrose, a sugar also used by shoe makers to make leather more pliable, and corn starch, used for thickening food as well as also being a substitute for petrol
“It’s a tricky subject”, says Rebecca Burr, editor of the Michelin guides. She admits the numbers of Michelin-starred chefs are particularly low in the UK – especially when compared to Italy and the Benelux countries. But the numbers have been similar since 2014 when she became the guide’s editor, which leaves little hope for the gap to dramatically close, or even out any time soon.
“Historically conditions have been gruelling in hot boxes of kitchens in small spaces, without windows or air-con and it’s a lifestyle choice to become a chef. But it’s the same for men and women and there is now a move for businesses to improve working conditions, whether that’s condensed working hours, reducing bookings, increased pay or closing on certain days,” she says.
“Split shifts are becoming a thing of yesteryear and instead working in restaurants is becoming more appealing where staff can be more flexible and may start earlier, but finish at a more reasonable time and can have three consecutive days off and are able to have a more balanced life.”
But she does note that when you take the starred restaurants out of their guides, there is a significant number of high-profile female chefs. “I think there are a lot more daring females now, who will open their own businesses.”
One restaurant that especially tries to even out the percentage of male and female chefs in the kitchen is the River Café in Fulham, southwest London, which currently has 12 male and female chefs led by head chef Sian Wyn Owen.
“We know that restaurants work better if there are men and women chefs – we need a balance,” says owner Ruth Rogers. Although she is confident that a balance is the best, they don’t consciously aim to have equals numbers of both in the kitchen.
“I wouldn’t say women bring something different to the kitchen, or cook in a different way. But it is the same in every profession from journalism to law.”
Ruth thinks that now in 2017 things are much better than even 10 or so years ago. “When it was a male-dominated industry, there was a sense that women just couldn’t do the hours.”
But there are plenty of women now leading the way, who are the head chefs of restaurants or opening their own restaurants. Here are some to look out for:
1. Monica Galetti, head chef, Mere
Pronounced “Mary” – both after her mother and the French word for mother, Monica’s restaurant has been two years in the making. She now runs it as the senior sous chef, alongside her sommelier husband David. Mere opened last month and offers cuisine with touches of New Zealand flavour, inspired by Monica’s Samoan upbringing. The restaurant’s artwork and décor also reflects the sous chef’s Kiwi roots.
2. Anne-Sophie Pic, chef patron, La Dame De Pic
The hotly anticipating La Dame de Pic in the Four Seasons opened in February; the first UK-based restaurant of Ann-Sophie Pic’s, who is the only French female chef to have three Michelin stars. She’s part of three consecutive generations who have earned three stars, which is made more amazing by the fact she’s had no formal training. It’s classically French and high end, with mains starting at £32.
3. Helena Puolakka, executive chef, Aster
Downstairs at Aster you’ll find a café and deli while upstairs is the restaurant, headed by Finn Helena Poulakka. Her menus are inspired by a fusion of her Nordic background, which has shaped her simplistic cooking style, and her French training. A recent addition to London’s Victoria, expect smorgasbord set menus, Nordic afternoon teas and mains from ox cheek to salmon rillettes.
4. Elizabeth Allen, head chef, Shibui
After gaining a Michelin star at the tiny Pidgin restaurant, in east London Hackney, within just a year of opening, Elizabeth Allen – who is only 28 – is on to her next venture, Shibui. Having given a preview of her menu at a residency at Marylebone’s Carousel restaurant, she used bold combinations such as buttermilk chicken and caviar as well as mixing European and Asian influences. The name is taken from a Japanese word, which broadly translates to many things including beauty and simplicity and it’s due to open in September of this year.Reuse content