The Only Difference In An All-Female Kitchen Is The Lack of Impending Doom

Other than that, we’re just humans making food. Get over it.

March 29, 2018 ● 2 min read

By Casey Rebecca Nunes | Original image via IStock; Photo illustration by ChefsFeed

I’ve never really felt a strong connection to other women.

As someone who’s always skewed tomboy, and always worked in male-dominated industries, I’ve trained myself to mask my femininity, since anything other than brute strength and emotional neutrality was frowned upon and filed under: “pussy.” Although I possess one and am unashamed of my sexual organs and the identity that comes with them, I didn’t want that to be the focal point of any conversation.

I wanted to be seen as an equal. Now I see how ridiculous it was to think that by (br)osmosis, I’d soak up some sort of advantage. That by being immersed in an environment dominated by men, I’d be made “better” because of it. I don’t want or need modifiers like “GIRL POWER” and “BADASS,” given out like charms on a bracelet, to accompany any description of what I do. “Chef” is the only one I want; it’s earned, like my kitchen scars, and not anatomical.

Now, I run a restaurant with two other strong women who’ve also been shaped by this notion, and I’ve never felt more empowered or more set up for success. It’s not because we possess more masculine qualities, and it’s not because we’re world-weary bitches hardened by the rough and seedy restaurant world. It’s because we are human beings.

People like to assume that being part of an all-female restaurant management dynamic is about speaking in calm, dulcet tones and syncing up our menstrual cycles. Sure, we strive for a dusting of harmony and balance, for control in the chaos, but mostly because that’s how we like to work. As people, and women. 

But as a team, we face the same personality challenges as every kitchen in the history of kitchens, as we simmer in a weird stew of ego, pride, and stress. Sometimes we are not on the same page. Sometimes we yell. We try to stay ahead of the next wave of inevitable upsets and triumphs that shape our public personality. We push ahead, no matter what. 

Huh. Those are literally all the same challenges as running a restaurant with men-folk! Weird. 

Sure, there are some stark differences. I don’t feel the impending doom of a too-friendly comment or ass brush. Work pet names carry different weight; mine is “La Planchita” — The Iron Lady. But the biggest shift is that I know, with total, comfortable certainty that the other women I work alongside understand what all of this feels like, too. We’re consciously striving to maintain this emotionally sensitive inclusivity we’ve stumbled upon. 

When I slough off the weight of pay inequity, seemingly inevitable harassment, emotional tone-deafness, and various other gender-based power struggles in this business, I’m left with the work. Just the work; the prep, the service, the cleaning. I’m grateful every day that the place I want to be the most doesn’t force me to simultaneously fight larger issues while I plate.

And look, I know people mean well with woke attempts at admiration for our all-female staff, but it kind of annoys me, in a patronizing head-patting kind of way. Don’t praise women for daring to cook as women—praise them for being people who turned their dreams into reality. Don’t give us awards based on our gender. That’s what evens the playing field.

Women are dope, not all men are evil in their privilege, and all humans are crazy. Now, if you’ll excuse me, back to the mountain of cubanos I've got to send out.