Another Piece of Meat in the Kitchen?

Dear Ms. Mix & Bitch,

My name is Rhiannon (yes, my parents are Fleetwood Mac fans unfortunately) and I just graduated from Culinary Institute of America last spring.  I’ve been working as a sous chef in a New York restaurant for several months right now and I’m having a hard time of it.  The cooking part is fine, but I’m the only woman in the kitchen and I feel as if that’s getting in the way of my advancement and being more part of the team. And since I’m not getting a sex-change operation anytime soon (har har) I’m at a loss as to how to handle it.  Some of the “ribbing” is good-natured, but some of it can be nasty and crude. I’ve never encountered this before. What do I do?

Dear Rhiannon,

First of all, I’m more than happy to answer your question – it’s a good one – but don’t be disrespecting the Mac in this house. I worship at Stevie Nick’s feet and love, love, love them. Capisce?

Nothing lovelier.

Ok, now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to the “meat” of your dilemma.

Sexism is getting a LOT of play in the media through the election these days, although it has been around since, well, forever.  And you, my friend, are definitely getting served a heaping plateful of it down at Cafe Creepfest (ok I promise to cut out the restaurant metaphors).  I’m sorry you are going through this. 

The restaurant world is a notoriously hard place for women, but not hopeless. And I suspect at least part of what you’re going through is a rite of passage, so to speak. So let me play devil’s advocate for a sec and have you ask yourself the following question:

Whoever can tell me who this is gets a special mix dedication just for them.

Consider it an ode to your brilliance and proper exposure 😉

Question:  You may be the only woman in the kitchen, but are there any other newbies around? If so, are they harassed as well – maybe not for being women of course, but for something – anything -else?

Why Do I Ask?  Because if you get picked on for being a woman, and Juan gets teased for his ‘ugly’ face, and George for his short stature, then this is just the tone of this kitchen.

What To Do About It? Ask all the great women chefs in New York, and they all have two things in common: (1) they are superb culinary artists, and (2) they may have taken some shit for a little while, but sooner or later, they figured out a way to give it right back to ’em. They stood up for themselves – sometimes with humor, sometimes with guts and grit, depending on the situation. And in the end, talent – real talent – shines. So commit to being the best they’ve ever seen.

Question: Is this behavior intefering with your work goals?

Why Do I Ask? If you are being sexually harassed and/or if you are excluded from learning opportunities, then you put the owner on notice, give him or her a chance to fix the problem, and if that doesn’t work – you’re out of there and you sue the bastards.  However, if there are no sexual overtones to the jabbing and if the team still teaches you what you need to know to advance, then maybe this is just how this team rolls.  Doesn’t mean you “take it” but you really need to pick your battles…that is, until you can find a work environment more suited to your needs.

Another thought…did you have any mentors at CIA? If so, why don’t you give them a call and ask for their opinion on how to handle this.  They know your world much better than I do, so perhaps they can offer a fresh perspective. 

I know this is the first time this is happening to you, and I hope you never go through it again, but you will get through this.  Unfortunately, EVERY woman I know…no exaageration….EVERY woman has had an experience similar to this (just different hats ;-). Good luck.


1. Donna Summer – She Works Hard For The Money  
2. Sam Cooke – A Change Is Gonna Come  
3. Nina Simone – No Woman No Cry  
4. BB King – That Ain’t the Way to Do It  
5. Walt Disney’s – The Work Song (Cinderella)  
6. Helen Reddy – I Am Woman  
7. Radiohead – Creep  
8. Mudhoney – You Stupid Asshole  
9. The Offspring – Gotta Get Away  
10. Tori Amos – Smells Like Teen Spirit  
11. Patti Smith – Soul Kitchen

2 responses to “Another Piece of Meat in the Kitchen?

  1. Ah… try Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work” as well.

    Here’s to happy creating and cooking.

  2. Dammit Janet, why didn’t I think of that. That should’ve been the first one…

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