Everybody Knows Girls Can’t Cook

Food — By Crust on March 10, 2010

I’ve talked about how I started cooking at Feenie’s but I’ve never talked about when I left Feenie’s. It is time to talk about it now.

I started on Garde Manger, then went to Grill, then Pasta, then finally to Entremat and I had my eye on the Meat station. Kyle was ahead of me and he had just gotten moved to meats, and I had been there over a year, so I felt it would be a natural progression for me to go to that station within the next 6 months. The last 9 months we had been operating without a chef, Bryan and some other sous chefs had been keeping things together, doing the ordering and such, but it was kind of a free for all. There was lots of crazy shit going down. Then we got a new chef.

When I heard he was coming I was so excited, I always wanted a chef. Someone I could ask questions to, and learn from, someone who could recommend a place for me to go after Feenie’s. I don’t know what it was, maybe I creeped him out by how stoked I was to finally have a chef, but from the first day I felt funny. As soon as he got there I was glazing pearl onions and I asked him how to do it. I didn’t really understand what I was doing or what the desired result was supposed to be so I asked. So happy to finally ask a pro. I don’t remember what he said, but he wasn’t happy. I thought nothing of it, but then it all went down hill. So many things would happen everyday that would make me feel so powerless and frustrated.

He would yell at only me during service, everything I would do would be wrong. I would make sure to do it the exact same as the other entemat guys, and it was good when they would do it but it was bad when I would do it. I was so frustrated not being able to understand or fix what was wrong. After service on the back loading dock all the guys who were like family to me would look at me pitifully and laugh and say, “Oooh he’s got it in for you, he’s old school, he does not like women in the kitchen.”

“No,” I said shocked. “That can’t be it, he wouldn’t be like that, he’s nice to the other girls.”

“The other girls are on pastry, he’s just not having you.”

That blew my mind and I still didn’t believe them, then more bad stuff happened. I checked the schedule and he had re-scheduled me to garde-manger and brunch grill shifts. I had already put my time in on both those stations already and was trying to move up and forward. I thought that he must just want to make sure I could do the other stations. I worked them for that week and the next and I did a good job. Then I went and talked to him to tell him that I’ve already worked all the stations except meat and that I’d like to go back to entremat because it took me a long time to get there and that some day I want to do the meat station so that I can leave having done all the stations. He didn’t say anything.

The thing that made it so much more devastating was that all my guy friends felt bad for me, but he was being so great to them. He’s joking around with them and giving them promotions. There was nothing they could do plus it wasn’t their problem. I didn’t know what to do. He called some of the guys over to talk about a menu idea and when I came over too he sent me away and said that I was always wanting to know everything but that nothing was any of my business. Another time one of the guys was sweeping up a mess during prep and he took the broom out of his hand and gave it to me, and quietly said to me so that only I could hear, “When you’re around I don’t want to see any of these guys with a broom.”
I swept, I had never felt so trapped and frustrated. A couple of weeks later when I asked him again about the meat station he told me I was never going to be on it. I new I couldn’t win so I had to leave, the guys told me it was a good choice. I was so mad and sad and everything. It felt like the time I put in was taken from me, I was so close to working all of the stations and leaving there with my goal fulfilled. I felt like I was leaving without finishing what I started, but I had to. I wrote a good letter of resignation talking about how the job has meant so much to me and how Bryan and Kyle have been my mentors. I asked them and he never passed on the nice things I said in the letter.

I’ve never talked about this because I think girls who bitch about inequality in the kitchen just can’t stand the heat. I don’t think about it in terms of girls and boys I think about it in terms of good people and bad people or something like that. I just want to get it off my chest so I can put it to rest. This blog is supposed to document Crust in the kitchen, and this happened, so it’s part of me piecing together my story.

11 Comments

  1. Been there, done that says:

    I understand your frustration! I have worked in many kitchens and there are always going to be guys like this out there. I have also worked for guys who say they only want to work with women because they work faster, cleaner and have better palates. You did the right thing and are on a better path! You go!

  2. It goes both ways says:

    As a young male cooker, I’ve been a similar position. I worked with a not strong young female cook and the chef de cuisine was really nice to her even when making large mistakes. I’m guessing the he didn’t feel comfortable yelling at women.
    I guess what I’m saying is that for cooks just starting out they’re going to have to put up with unfair treatment, eventually. And it makes you stronger for sure.
    As you mentioned you really liked Feenie’s until that chef came. And it definitely sucks when you put so much into a place and then all of sudden it’s changed. Kind of like when a relationship goes from good to bad.

  3. Anthony says:

    Good story. Don’t hold back. In fact give the douche bag chef’s name up won’t you.

  4. nicole says:

    Hey Chris! You are a little bit of a crybaby 🙂 but you are also one of the strongest, hardest working, most determined and most forgiving people I have ever met. (Even when you wrote this, I bet you were trying to help the asshole out in your head.) You are way too good to put up with that shit and I am so happy that things have gotten so much better for you. You deserve it!

  5. mum says:

    You are a good hard working person, you make things happen, and learn quickly. I admire your determination. I have always been amazed when you decide on something, and work on it till you get there. You are gifted in so many ways… and thanks for telling your stories.. you also have great supportive friends!
    ps. The Chef is a narrow minded jerk

    xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

  6. David Zilber says:

    I’ve only ever seen women cry in the kitchen.

    The strongest/best/hardest working/most passionate cook I’ve ever worked with in my career was woman.

    I dunno. Two extremes there.

  7. Colleen says:

    Whether women cry or not….it is usually for a good reason. I have seen men cry in the kitchen, and it was usually because they couldn’t keep themselves organized enough.

    I have been discriminated against, lied to, been told that “women belong at home with children”, demoted, was stuck on pastry and garde manger for years, was solicited for sex, had my salary reduced, and was generally taken advantage of……mostly because I was a woman in a traditionally male profession.

    It is a hard profession to get into for anyone. Anyone who makes it ten years or more, has a modicum of my respect. But I agree that it is a tough road for women in this industry.

    Christie, you have had my support from the beginning. I am so sorry that I didn’t get to stay and help you reach your goal at Feenie’s. I wanted to be there for you. However, sometimes things are beyond our control and it is necessary to move on.

    Keep asking questions, keep pushing to learn more, keep pushing the boundaries of what some people think the professional chef should be. I am right there with you babe.

  8. Douglas T. says:

    regardless of their pubic junk, there are psychopaths and sociopaths all over the (work)place.. ruining the fun. they will do damage, be charming, look good and even be admired most of the time. you simply have to recognise the signs and get out of the way. this story illustrates that as a sensitive person, you escaped (early?) relatively unscathed. feel sorry for those who were fooled and continued into the depths of his sphere of control. another interesting story C. keep them coming. love,D.T.

  9. Travis says:

    that’s the thing about a blog — it’s best when it’s full of the truth, of your stories, of your experiences.

    I think you’re brave and justified for sharing, and remember that you’re going to be better off in the long run.

  10. Heather says:

    Hi Christie!

    I’ve been lurking your blog with delight ever since Erin sent me the link to it a while ago. I’ve been so enjoying your photography and stories and have been waiting for the right time to speak and right now I can’t resist adding to the voices of sympathy and encouragement. It’s good of you to tell this story because this crap happens not just in the restaurant world but in any workplace where there are, as Douglas put it, psychopaths and sociopaths and, might I add … narcissists. I’ve certainly experienced them (and most women have, at some point in their working lives) and your story will bring some comfort to others, I’m sure of it. Power in numbers. When assholes like this one are the ones with the clout, the best thing to do is just move on … a better and more enlightened person. Even though there is supportive legislation against such sexism, it’s a hard road to walk and not always rewarding. What a schmuck! Men like that … so arrogant … make me so angry! Trust in the “what goes around comes around” mantra. I’m sure life will take you places that will make you glad you moved on, too.

    Meanwhile, know that here is another person to whom your blog brings great pleasure. Thanks!

  11. Tamara says:

    So ironic that whenever a job is elevated to a certain level of prestige, it becomes male-only. The same types of douchbags who would argue a woman can’t become a chef probably wants his wife confined barefoot and pregant in the kitchen at home.
    So glad you left that toxic environment. You are motivated and hard working and probably put up with that shit longer than you should have. On to bigger things and better people.

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