Yesterday, Eater spoke with Time editor Howard Chua-Eoan about the lack of women chefs in the magazine's recent Gods of Food feature. Here now, New York chef Amanda Cohen of Dirt Candy responds to Chua-Eoan's reasoning.
Amanda Cohen, Dirt Candy, New York. [Photo: Krieger]
The most boring story in the food world is this one: magazine puts together a list of the most important/best/most influential chefs, which doesn't include any women. Or it drops in one as a token, and people react with incredulity and/or outrage. An editor of a magazine does an interview to say that they are not to be blamed, they are simply holding a mirror up to nature, just like Shakespeare. Even I'm bored of this cycle.
However, reading TIME magazine's "Gods of Food" or "Dudes of Food" or whatever they called it, and then reading editor Howard Chua-Eoan's interview with Eater, I realized that I feel a new emotion about all of this: I feel really, really bad for editors like Howard Chua-Eoan. His job can't be easy.
One thing we all have to keep in mind when reading these pieces about "The Conjoined Triplets Linked at the Forehead of Food" is that Mr. Chua-Eoan can only include what he knows and, like most editors, he spends so much time typing that he can't get out into the world like the rest of us and see what's actually going on. Instead, he's trapped in a bubble, going to the same parties again and again, seeing the same chefs over and over, fighting for gift bags at the same events as all the other food editors. It's like a human centipede of journalism, and being in a human centipede doesn't leave you a lot of time for anything else. Trust me, I was in a human centipede in Vancouver once and it was very time consuming.
Mr. Chua-Eoan can't get out into restaurants like us normal people and meet chefs on his own. Those of us with a lot of leisure time can swan about the city and look in kitchens and see all the women working there, or we can use our free time to go to their restaurants and eat their food. But poor Mr. Chua-Eoan is not so lucky. He has to meet chefs at special events which, as we all know, have their own problems inviting women. It's a human centipede out there and instead of criticizing we should all just count ourselves lucky our mouths aren't stitched to some event organizer's anus.
Some people have a problem that the centerpiece of the TIME article, a family tree of chef influences, doesn't include any women. Duh. How stupid is everyone? As Mr. Chua-Eoan says of the magical chart, which was put together by Aaron Arizpe:
"It's all men because men still take care of themselves. The women really need someone — if not men, themselves actually — to sort of take care of each other."
So see, women don't take care of themselves or shave their legs enough or something, and they don't have men doing it for them, so they're not on the chart. As Chua-Eoan continues: "It's unfortunate, the women who are there are very good, but very few of them actually benefited from the boys club, as you can see from the chart."
Which is a chart of the boys club.
Now, some of you may find this confusing because his chart doesn't say "The Boys Club" across the top, but then again maybe he's implying that a chart of important chefs and their influences would necessarily be a chart of "The Boys Club" and I'm just being stupid. In which case, why would women be on a chart of "The Boys Club" because then it wouldn't be a chart of "The Boys Club" and would, instead, be a chart of "The Boys Club with Also Some Icky Girls in It Ew Gross This Club is Hereby Disbanded."
NOTE: this is not the case with Barbara Lynch. She could have been on the chart of "The Boys Club" but she is not because, according to Mr. Chua-Eoan, "she's kept herself very local." In Boston. The tenth largest metropolitan area in the country.
Speaking of Barbara Lynch, Mr. Chua-Eoan says:
"I don't think she has that cultural influence that David Chang has. David is a very good entrepreneur, which is something beyond just being a cook."
Exactly! Thank goodness David Chang was touched by an angel and given these amazing entrepreneurial skills which allowed him to turn the enormous amount of press and media coverage he received into a thriving business. If Barbara Lynch received that kind of media attention from Mr. Chua-Eoan she'd probably just fritter it away by going shopping or something.
And let's give him a pass on comments like how his article:
"…reflects one very harsh reality of the current chefs' world, which unfortunately has been true for years: it's still a boys club."
Actually, no. I've never found restaurants or the world of chefs to be a boys club. I've worked with and for lots of women, lots of female chefs run restaurants across the country, and heck, there's even a lady chef running the White House kitchen. Also female chefs like Dione Lucas, Madeleine Kamman, Josefina Velazquez de Leon, and Julia Child were some of the earliest and most famous chefs to popularize cooking by teaching and appearing on television and radio. On top of that, I've never found male chefs anything but awesome and supportive, and if they have a boys club they must be keeping it very secret. But Mr. Chua-Eoan says it's a boys club, and so it's a boys club.
Also, can we all just ease up on Mr. Chua-Eoan because he is very busy and does not have time to keep up with the industry he covers. He does not have time, for example, to include female chefs on his "Great Big Chart of Chef Man Families" even though Diane Forley should be included under Alain Passard, which would have allowed Amanda Freitag, who worked for Forley, to also be included. And he didn't include Suzanne Goin who trained under Alain Passard, but come on! He did "consider" putting Alice Waters on the tree so what more do you want?
Most importantly, Mr. Chua-Eoan is not some nerd who knows about things that happened in the past. As he says:
"The female chef is a relatively recent phenomenon, except for Alice who has been around for a long time."
Let's leave it at that, okay? The man is busy. He's not some nitpicker who would know that Eugénie Brazier was the first chef in the world to have six Michelin stars way back in 1933, and that she trained Paul Bocuse. Or that Louis XV's favorite chef was a woman. Or that there were so many famous female chefs in New York City in the 80's and 90's that in 1999 the New York Times wrote an article bemoaning the lack of a new generation of female chefs to fill their shoes. What Mr. Chua-Eoan really means when he says "relatively recent phenomenon" is "since he started working on this issue" and he really doesn't have the time to spell that out for you.
So if you read the Time issue and think mean things, that's your own fault. Because Time can't follow all the things you do, with your actual going to restaurants and noticing the actual world that actually exists around you.
· Time Editor Howard Chua-Eoan Explains Why No Female Chefs Are 'Gods of Food' [Eater]
· All Amanda Cohen Coverage on Eater [-E-]
Amanda Cohen. [Photo: Eater NY]