Culinary Sense

Adventures with Food and Life

Archive for the month “March, 2013”

Women in the Food Industry Panel

Panel Poster

Dear Folks,

as part of my graduation with distinction packet, I organized a panel of speakers to talk about women in the food industry. It took a long time to organize, mostly because of scheduling issues, but then it finally happened! Chef Sarah Langan, Chef Laureen Gauthier, and Michelle Ford, all of the New England Culinary Institute (NECI), were able to offer their thoughts and advice. The idea was basically to present a panel of experienced women in the food industry to talk about the specific issues women face, and also to offer some strategies. There were about 15 attendees, mostly students, there. I spoke briefly to introduce myself and the rationale for the panel.

We’ve all heard the expression “There’s No Crying in the Kitchen”, and yet: I’ve cried many times in the kitchen. I’ve had a bit of a rough experience behind the line, and in various classes. Which is one of the reasons I switched to the hospitality program for the BA portion of my education at NECI. There is a definite lack of female cooks and chefs in the kitchen, and there may be many reasons for that. The kitchen is not conducive to having a family; and since women are generally the caretakers or their families, the long and non-traditional hours of the kitchen make it hard. Historically, the professional kitchen has been the realm of men – and this generally means the atmosphere in the kitchen is not that friendly to women: the sexist jokes and sexual harassment were commonplace for a long time. Things have changed a bit (or so I’m told) since decades ago; however, women still face adversary conditions (including being paid about 77% of what male chefs earn) in professional kitchens. On the baking and pastry side, there tend to be lots more women, however the pay gap is still there. And for women in leadership positions in the front of the house, they make up only about 17% of senior management teams. (citation male chefs & another citation, citation pastry, citation FOH)

After this short intro, all the panelists had really great things to say. Chef Sarah talked about her experiences as one of the only women at her culinary school at the time, and also some times when looking for work, she was told to her face that she wouldn’t get the job because she was a woman. She also recommended a book called “A Woman’s Place is in the Kitchen” by Ann Cooper, which features her among many other female chefs.

The panelists agreed on many issues, including laying your groundwork early by setting boundaries. Advocate for yourself, know your own worth, and focus on your own achievements rather than on others’. Set goals for yourself, and learn how to talk to everyone; communicate directly, and choose your battles. Try to balance your home life and work life, and keep a level head. Also, the panelist agreed that they preferred a gender diverse workplace.

Overall, the panel was a big success. It was everything I hoped it would be. I especially appreciated that the men in the audience seemed to understand better what exactly women are up against.

Thanks again to the panelists! You made this happen!





Dear Readers,

it has been a while since my last post. I hope you forgive my absence from this blog – my life has been busy, to say the least. I have gone through changes, transitions, highs and lows. 

I’ve finished my official on-the-ground classes at NECI, and am now looking forward to starting my last internship. I’ll talk about that in later posts, since the details are still unclear. I’ve been in classes, mostly, but also trying to organize the internship. 

Lately, I’ve been hearing “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac – it’s almost like it’s been following me around. I turn the radio in the car on, and it comes on. I listen to Pandora, and it comes on. And of course I love it, since I love the music of the 70s. The deep voice of Stevie Nicks, its warm and haunting timbre, seems to go directly into my heart. I can feel it vibrate in my chest, and I sing along, even though parts of it are too low for me. 

Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

These lyrics in particular resonate with me right now, as I am starting the final stage of my education. The final internship is nine months, and will then probably turn into a full-time job for me. I will have to move closer, which probably won’t happen right away, but soon enough for me to start looking at apartments.

Transitions, changes – they are part of my life. It’s a pattern that comes back over and over again. Even though I’m not sure I believe in astrology, many Scorpio themes come up in my life. One theme for Scorpios is death and re-birth, and rising from the ashes like a phoenix. Scorpios feel these changes more deeply than others. Right now, I am in another such change.

Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

What does it mean to go through life changes? What does it mean to “grow up”? What does it mean to be/become an adult? 

I have always felt more adult than not. Being a student, however, you are not quite an adult; you will always be treated as a “kid”, a non-expert, someone who needs to be taught, who still needs to find her way. It will be a welcome change to become an “adult” again, to have more control over my life, my choices, how I spend my time, and be respected as an equal at my job, rather than as “just a student”. 

Even though they’re hard and painful, however, I still seem to enjoy feeling deeply during these times of transition. It’s like when you want to listen to a sad song because it gets you more in touch with your sadness. The transformations, for me, are part of the process of living. I am more anxious, and happier, and also sad and a little confused. The emotions feel deeper, more intense. And yet, I seem to relish in them. I draw them out purposefully in order to experience them more fully. 

And really, isn’t that what it’s all about? The intensity of life; emotions, whatever they may be. They remind us we are still here. They keep us going, ever forward, through the fire and the ashes. 

Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

This next season, I envision myself coming into my power. I am ready to take on the new challenges. I’m here.

~ Carolynn


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