Last night, many New York chefs and restaurateurs with double-X chromosomes were honored for their work at the annual At the Table event, sponsored by the Women Chefs & Restaurateurs organization. We went around and asked them about girl power in the kitchen. Strangely, some of the recognizable New York divas (Donatella Arpaia, Anne Burrell) were no-shows.
"There is a foundation for young females today that wasn't around when I started in the 1990s. We still have a long way to go. We went from Mad Max to a low-budget Disney film, and maybe in ten years, we'll be at the level of a Coen brothers film. "
"Compared to New York, it was easier for me to advance my career in restaurant-owning in D.C., where there's more of a need for neighborhood restaurants. There's also more independent landlords willing to make deals. Of course I love New York, but I am really happy in D.C."
"I think New York is finally getting recognized, but we're still behind cities like San Francisco, Boston, and Seattle. There's plenty of women chefs still in baking and pastry roles, but today you're seeing more and more cooks.
"My restaurant is three-years old and pretty small, but I have four females working in the kitchen, and there's only eight on staff. I am proud to employ so many women, especially when the number of women enrolling in culinary schools right now is down. Women naturally make great chefs—it's our nurturing intuitiveness."
"We're definitely not there yet. We've got a long way to go, but we're making progress. I started in 1988 and worked in French kitchens, where it was all male except the pastry chef."
"You really couldn't host an event like this ten years ago. It's a lot easier to be a woman now, than when I started."
Barbara Sibley and Margaritte Malfy
"We own two restaurants and both have kids. The kids have to come first, though. Even if you feel guilt-tripped to be at the restaurant, the kids come first. It's interesting because all the huge fancy chains (like BLT Steak and the Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurants) have men running the show, and I don't know if that will change. It's just different. When women have kids, they don't necessarily want the phone ringing at 3AM." (-Margaritte Malfy)
"You have to carry out the same role as the next guy in this business. Everyone's getting paid the same. This isn't a princess role."