By Debra Liu Where are all the women in the upper echelons of culinary prestige? And furthermore, where is the racial diversity? Despite the visibility of female celebrity cooks like Rachel Ray on TV, what most of us don’t realize is that, on the other side of the kitchen, in the cut-throat world of Michelin stars, a majority of the glory is given to male white chefs. On March 3, 2014, Mother Jones, a nonprofit investigative news outlet, will be hosting a panel discussion, “The Melting Pot: Leading chefs dish on diversifying dinner”, at Ginny’s Supper Club in Harlem (get tickets here) to explore diversity in the culinary world. Leading New York chefs Marcus Samuelsson and Charlene Johnson-Hadley of Red Rooster, Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune, and Floyd Cardoz of North End Grill, who are all paving the way for change, will share their personal experiences.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with Tom Philpott, Mother Jones’ Food and Ag Correspondent, whose visit to Stone Farms for a meeting of minds between chefs and scientists was what sparked the creation of this panel discussion. In his research, Tom found that of the chefs in “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants”, a highly coveted honor – Nobel Prize of fine-dining if you will – most were men; there were only 2-3 female chefs amongst the 50 and even then, these women had a male co-chef. And when it came to racial diversity, stats were similarly disappointing. “There are woman all across the country doing great restaurants, but why are they left out of high-prestige conversations, and why do they seldom win the highest accolades? We started thinking about it and thought it would be great to convene some people to talk about this… but let’s broaden it, it’s not just about gender – chefs of color also tend to get left out,” Tom told me. What’s great about the panel is that not only is there diversity of gender and race, but there’s also a diversity of experience. “We have people at various stages of this business,” says Tom. According to him, it’s really important to the story to “not just to have established [chefs], people who are stars, but also the younger folks.” Tom will be the moderator of the discussion and when asked what to expect, he hopes to “get people’s stories, draw people out on their stories and talk this issue out. I’m hoping for a real lively back and forth, with [chefs] sharing their experiences.” The event will be open bar and appetizers including charcuterie and cheese will be catered by Red Rooster. You do not want to miss this rare opportunity to meet and hear talented chefs share their experiences! Check out the event page here to find out more and get tickets before they’re sold out.
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