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Andrea Reusing, chef/owner of Lantern Restaurant in Chapel Hill.
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Our sister publication Durham Magazine featured these 11 female restaurant owners in its June/July 2013 "Women's Issue." Left to right: Anne Niemann, Danielle Martini-Rios, Tanya Catolos, Amy Tornquist, Phoebe Lawless, Karen Barker, Rochelle Johnson, Jennings Brody, Claudia Cooper, Kelli Cotter and Sara Foster.
Hell hath no fury as a woman chef scorned.
Time magazine discovered that when female chefs around the globe vented their frustration about women being ignored in “The Gods of Food,” the Nov. 18 cover story that defines the professional kitchen as the exclusive domain of male chefs.
The package spotlights 60 men whose creativity and influence are deemed worthy of attention. While a handful of notable women were referenced as having impact in the larger food world, not one of them cooks professionally.
Social media platforms sparked with heated comments. Reflecting the comments of many, food writer Ruth Reichl tweeted: “This is pathetic. Time should be ashamed.”
In an interview with the food blog Eater, Time editor Howard Chua-Eoan defended his editorial choices: “At this point, rather than have someone on the list who other people will say ‘fills a quota,’ we did not want to fill a quota of a woman chef just because she's a woman.”
Andrea Reusing, who was named 2011 Best Chef Southeast by the James Beard Foundation for her work at Lantern, took offense to both the article and Chua-Eoan’s response.
“Given the sheer number and talent of women cooking over the last 20 years, it's hard to imagine how an all-male list of 60 made it through the editorial process. It almost seems deliberate,” Reusing says. “But it's not actually that much worse than the many high-profile, rising-star type lists that always include exactly one woman.”
Fellow James Beard honoree Karen Barker, formerly of Magnolia Grill in Durham, was so appalled that she admitted to having trouble expressing herself.
“Crappily (is that a word?) conceived article with extremely poor editing and editorial decisions,” Barker shared by email, offering a link to a parody posted by FirstWeFeast.com. “Nuff said.”
Sara Foster agrees that Chua-Eoan dodged the issue in his response.
“When you talk about chefs who influence American cuisine, I really don’t know how you can leave out people like Alice Waters or Julia Child,” says the Foster’s Market founder and cookbook writer. “Julia Child made us all aware of eating good food. Along with James Beard, she was one of the originals. Without them, we might all be still eating TV dinners.”
Foster believes there are several contemporary female chefs whose work is sufficiently groundbreaking to have made the list, including Raleigh’s Ashley Christensen. Others include April Bloomfield of the Michelin-starred The Spotted Pig and The Breslin in New York – who Chua-Eoan concedes was on the short list; Stephanie Izard, the Chicago-based chef who has been honored by the James Beard Foundation and won TV’s Top Chef; and Suzane Goin, who operates for acclaimed restaurants in highly competitive Los Angeles market.
“Women and cooking is just such a large part of our food culture,” adds Foster, noting that Martha Stewart’s contribution to the art of entertaining also was snubbed. “The fact is, women have been and still are changing the face of American cuisine.”
Sandra Gutierrez of Cary is a culinary instructor who is making a splash in the cookbook arena. Her second book with UNC Press, Latin American Street Foods, was released to positive reviews in September. She is currently working on Empanadas, a comprehensive collection to be released in 2015 by Stewart, Tabori & Chang.
“It was such a disappointing article. In this time and age to have such an obvious bias is very sad,” she says. “I’m not taking anything away from the wonderful male chefs on the list. But where are the other 60 women? Where are all the women who are walking in the footsteps of Alice Waters? That’s all I’m saying.”
Amy Tornquist of Durham’s Watts Grocery, who counts Waters as an inspiration, has mixed feelings about the story and the controversy it has generated. “The restaurant business is a truly traditionally male business. And it takes time for new folks to get to the pinnacle,” she says. “But I think it is important to note that without women feeding families, none of those men would be on that list.”
Unlike many of the men Time celebrates, Tornquist notes the female chefs often sacrifice fame to balance family life.
“It's hard to put yourself out there all the time and still have time to be on soccer fields with your kids, “ says Tornquist, who did just that this weekend. “So I guess I don't particularly challenge the decisions of the folks at Time [because] there are valid and rational reasons that the majority of women chefs and food people aren't there.”