The kitchen, like life, has an order of hierarchy, a labyrinth of power dynamics and prejudices that one must navigate through. As a young female chef, I have had to confront these struggles head-on – it has been a journey of self-discovery, determination and resilience.
The culinary art is a form that transcends the boundaries of gender and age. It challenges the status quo and dares to be different, with daily concoctions of flavours and blending spices to create harmonious balance on the plate. However, the art form has lost touch with its original source of power, the kitchen.
Detailing the ways in which my gender has made my job significantly harder doesn’t give credit where it’s due. But I will point out some obvious differences that are bound in prejudice that only a woman will encounter. Being a young female chef is supposed to be about creating delicious and innovative food, breaking the mold and proving that age and gender are irrelevant in the kitchen. It’s about standing up against the outdated stereotypes that claim women can’t handle the heat or that young people lack the experience to lead. I am here to remind the industry that these stereotypes are nothing but a bunch of overcooked nonsense.
One of the struggles that I have faced is the constant battle to prove myself in a field where women are underrepresented. It is a delicate dance that one must balance gracefully between assertiveness and vulnerability. I have had to work twice as hard to earn the respect of my colleagues and superiors, and it can be a disheartening experience when one’s ideas are dismissed or overlooked because of their gender.
Like any young person adventuring around at the beginning of a career, I also am undergoing a lot of trial and error. In the culinary light, however, there isn’t a lot of patience for error.
Being discouraged and dismissed has become like second nature, and it is a constant battle to keep coming up with new ideas, when everything that comes out your mouth feels like scrambled eggs.
The demand on my mental and physical health is neverending. I knew what I was getting into when I signed up for this career – lifting heavy pots with a smile, standing head deep in a fire pit as my local gym, and all the while, keeping a steady hand for delicate plating. What I’ve found is that the choice to prioritize my mind and soul has reduced to nil.
Is this what beginning a career is supposed to feel like? Being slammed down with work for beyond imaginable hours a week, stressing about never being perfect enough, not sharing a meal with my partner in over a month, and having completely obscure sleep schedules. It feels like I’m sliding down into a pit of doom.
I was promised on my first day that working nights can be a test of endurance, where one must contend with the fatigue and isolation that comes with the territory. It can be a challenge to maintain a healthy work-life balance and to stay connected with the world beyond the night. It has been in these small moments that I have found the most joy. I have learned to embrace the unique rhythms that come with night work, and to find joy in the dark. I relish the quiet of the back streets, the boom box of K Road, and the moonlit skies that light my way home.
Being a young female chef is a test of not only willpower and patience, but it is also a journey of self discovery and wonder.
There is so much light to be discovered in the culinary world. It has taught me to appreciate the beauty in the ordinary, and find humour in the unexpected. I will forever have a plethora of resources and knowledge to carry me through every day cooking adventures.
It is undeniable that the experiences and struggles I have faced are secluded to that of a young chef. Being a woman just makes it a little bit harder. My recommendation for anyone stepping on the culinary platform is to prepare. Prepare yourself for the nights and days you’ll go through where you forget why you even started in the first place. Prepare yourself for being the only one in the room that believes in yourself. Prepare yourself for being put in the pastry section just because you’re a female. Prepare yourself to run your own race, fight your own battles, and wash your own dishes. I use these struggles as motivation to work harder, to prove my worth, and to create a culinary masterpiece that speaks for itself.
Being a young female chef is a beautiful blend of art, defiance and humour, and a true feast for the senses. And a lonely journey to the top.