Charlotte Vincent, head chef at the Five Bells Inn, Cullompton, Devon, who has been in the industry for more than two decades, outlined her thoughts on Marco Pierre White’s comments on women in hospitality kitchens.
The Irish Independent reported White said men can absorb pressures better in the kitchen because they aren’t emotional and don’t take things personally.
He also said men were physically stronger, however, White did praise women for having a better palate and for being more consistent with presentation in the kitchen.
Vincent said: “I was so saddened to read what he said because, as a female chef, I felt things were changing but they are clearly not.
“[Marco Pierre White] is helping the next generation to understand women aren’t allowed in the kitchen, they are going to be a commodity in the kitchen.
“I’ve spent my whole career trying to change people’s minds. I’ve struggled to get jobs, I’ve always been the underdog [but] I’ve clawed my way to the top and I’ve flown the flag for women from the start, however, he’s not helping us to progress the trade if you’re a female.”
Thing in the corner
Vincent reflected on her experience in hospitality kitchens and how she has previously been treated as a chef.
She added: “I worked in a very high-end kitchen and I was known as ‘that thing in the corner’ for two years by the French chef there, he wouldn’t even acknowledge me.
“Those were the darkest days of my life but in some respects, I owe him quite a lot because he taught me to really stand up for myself. I sometimes feel that is what he was trying to do and why he was being so hard on me.
“[I carried on working there] because it was such an amazing kitchen, I didn’t want it on my CV that I had quit. I didn’t want to say to people I had quit because I couldn’t hack it as a woman in the kitchen. I don’t want to appear weak.”
In order to get more women into kitchens, Vincent said there needed to be more role models in the media.
She added: “We need more women at the top that are on TV, standing there and showing everyone what they are capable of.
“I know we have got a lot of home cooks like Mary Berry and Delia Smith who are flying the flag for females but they are not chefs.”
Flying the flag
Vincent added: “Not grinding themselves in the kitchen, not working 80 hours a week, not doing everything from taking the bins out to cooking at a high level. We need to have women the flag for that for our trade and even showing what it is like.
“I can see why people don’t want to come into it. They are so unsure of it and the hours and how they will be treated and it’s time to change things and show people what it can be like to be a professional chef.”
Vincent highlighted how she thought the industry had changed for the better towards women, and how she runs kitchens.
She added: “I believe things had changed. Where I am now, I would say things have changed but that’s because I have had made sure they have changed.
“I don’t run a kitchen with a bat. I am laid back, treat everyone as an individual, I try to let people have time off if they need to, I don’t make people work every night and I am very flexible. But the industry seems to be back in the 1960s when it was all French cookery, you can’t have time off and have to work 80 hours.
“I don’t like to be seen as a sex object in the kitchen but I don’t want to be seen as a bloke either. I want to be seen as a woman achieving something.
“If I have been in the kitchen and had a bad service, I will have a little cry and I won’t stop the guys from seeing me have a cry but they are will look at me and I think they see strength not weakness.”