Crawfish boil with peeps from the Partnership for Youth Development, Lundi Gras 2011.
Courtyard of Sylvain, a restaurant on Chartres street, located in a 216 year old carriage house.
Best restaurant in town, methinks. Or at least one of.
This has been much-discussed by people much smarter than I, but I still have to rant because I see the phrase every day and it irks me each time. Modernism was an artistic, cultural, philosophical movement, with its heyday in the first half of the twentieth century. A bunch of chefs—you know, the ones who use foams and what-not—have decided to call their type of cooking “Modernist cuisine.” There’s even a book by that name, espousing the ethos and techniques of the movement.
But this ethos and this cuisine is solidly rooted in the 21st century. Modernism is solidly rooted in the early 20th, and more shakily rooted in the late 19th, centuries. It’s too bad that loads of otherwise smart people have just grasped a term because it sounds new and progressive, while it’s actually rather retrograde.
Just minutes after I posted this ditty on the male dominated restaurant industry, and how it’s reflected in Food & Wine's recent nominations for the People's Best New Chef award (to recap: Less than 7% of the nominees are women), my local alt daily posted this. It’s a quote from one of the co-founders of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United on the same issue.
Because the Gambit doesn’t include hyperlinks in the online versions of its stories (though it does in the blog versions that sometimes appear a week before the published print article), I don’t have the original article whence this quote comes. And I’m too lazy to Google it. But basically, only one in five chefs in America are women, making F&W's 6.67% even more noticeable. But far scarier is this: “nearly 37 percent of all sexual harassment charges filed by women with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission come from the restaurant industry.”
I should note, too, that I’m not calling out F&W for being, like, totally sexist. (Though even if I was, not like anyone reads this humble little Tumblr.) I think their nominations just reflect a grim reality of the restaurant industry. Mostly, I would just like to know more: Why do so few women work in professional kitchens, even in the 21st Century?
I used to work in education. During that period of my life, nearly every one of my co-workers was female; the majority of my friends were female. Now, my assortment of friends is starting to balance out a bit. This is because I now work in an incredibly male field. Cooking is so male-dominated, as is the group of hangers-on of which I am a part. (That is, the people who live vicariously through cooks and chefs via television, the internet and/or print.)
Look at this list. By my count, there are 7 women out of 105 nominees. That’s 6.67%. That’s just not okay. And these are the best new chefs, meaning this is (admittedly a very limited) look at the future of the profession.
This is not okay. I don’t know what to do about it, but it’s not okay.
I’m sure there are more than this, but here’s a selection of my goals, that I apply to most situations:
- To not suck. At whatever I do, I try not to suck.
- Have fantastic thoughts. I think things, and I want the things I think to be fantastic, in every sense of the word.
- To crush it, full stop. Whatever I do, whatever I eat, wherever I go, I’m going to try to crush it—however I believe that term means in that particular instance. Full stop.
Tonight, this lemony risotto I made with some baked flounder? Yeah, I crushed it. Full stop.
Everything is better with a fried egg. Toast is great, toast with a fried egg is better. A croque monsieur is great, but a croque madame is even better. Pizza and pasta, both of these are great as well. But they’re both taken to unspeakable heights of wonder and deliciousness when you put a fried egg on top. Burgers, too, are delicious, but with fried eggs they are so very much better.
Bad hangover? Have a fried egg. So broke you can barely afford any food? Don’t buy ramen, buy eggs, and fry them. Going through a bad break up? Have a fried egg. Boss screams at you for no reason. Have a fried egg—and offer to make her one as well.
In case you didn’t get my thesis here—everything in life is better with a fried egg. A fried egg makes the lows a little less low, and makes the highs infinitely better. The gross becomes tasty, the tasty becomes heavenly, with only the addition of a single, simple, fried egg.
I kinda-sorta spaced out last night at a food-based fundraiser. I’m still new to the whole New Media thing, so I’m not exactly comfortable attending events like that. Until some other New Media friends got there, I was on my own. And since I’m no good at mingling, I just wandered, ate and drank a little.
And yeah, I spaced out and ended up watching a noteworthy local chef cook for about 10-15 minutes, just staring. I’m sure it creeped him out. I found myself on the wrong side of his table, on the cooking side, not the serving side. On the serving side, the dishes are pretty and the foodies are oohing and ahhing*. On the cooking side, shit gets real.
I had this thought: Cooking, as a profession, is a shitty and gritty endeavor. The whole celebrity chef-driven, fancy-pants obsession with food (of which I am a key player, I admit) is, in the end, quite superficial. On Chopped or whatever, the cooking competitions are exciting, sexy, intense, but ultimately (and purely) they’re just entertainment. That’s not what it’s really like. The reality of the thing, when you’re sweating your ass off over an open flame, working with hot-fucking-oil, trying to feed 1500 do-gooders who showed up to the fundraiser to
hob-nob with celebrity chefs support the kids, is that it’s really quite unglamorous. But maybe that’s where the glamor comes from.
Take all this with a grain of salt, though. I haven’t actually cooked in a kitchen in years, and even then I was no good at it. I also recognize that many, if not most, of foodie types have worked in the service industry, and that’s a good thing.
*Spell check recognizes “oohing” but not “ahhing.” Really, spell check?