The profession of cook in France was established outside of women and their ancestral know-how.
Originally, the great French cuisine is a court kitchen ordered by men. Taillevent, considered by historians as the first French “Chef”, was the first equerry of the king, in this case Charles VI. The “grande cuisine” will be until the French Revolution the cuisine of the “greats”.
However, alongside the nobility, the rising bourgeoisie very early on employed women to cook , with one nuance: “only the less wealthy bourgeois” entrusted “responsibility for their kitchen to a woman”.
During the 19th century, restaurants multiplied and gourmet cuisine appeared. The rivalry between cooks and cooks is accentuated, the first fearing a devaluation of their trade and a reduction in their wages. The corporation of cooks rather violently denigrates their rivals. The prose of Phileas Gilbert, a cook and food critic who went so far as to call cooks the “slag of the profession”, testifies to this.
Back to the history of French gastronomy
You have to go to the Belle Epoque at the end of the period between the two wars, a period during which gastronomy became a women’s story ! That of the roadside inns but also that of the Mères Lyonnaises . Women, chefs have contributed to building the reputation of Lyon-style gastronomy over the years. The Mothers then followed one another: First there is Mother Guy who received her first three Michelin stars in 1936, then Mothers Fillioux, Brazier and Bizolon and many others in Lyon and throughout France, They have profoundly marked the history of French “haute cuisine” and are still references today. This period marked a turning point for the recognition of women’s gastronomy.
In recent years, we have seen the acceleration of the media coverage of women chefs via TV shows and numerous books.
Women and stars
The adventure of the Michelin Guide began in 1900 . In 2020, the famous red guide celebrated its 120th anniversary.
The story of the stars begins in 1931:
- Eugénie Brazier – 3 stars from 1933 to 1968
- Marie Bourgeois – 3 stars from 1933 to 1937
- Marguerite Kiss – 3 stars from 1951 to 1983 and from 1985 to 1987
- Paule Castaing – 2 stars from 1963 to 1988
- Ghislaine Arabian – 2 stars from 1995 to 1998
Between 1987 and 2008, no woman chef obtained three stars in the Michelin Guide, and therefore several years of absence from the guide. It should be noted that for several years, the share of starred women has been increasing : 39 Michelin starred women in France this year, compared to 33 in 2020 and 27 in 2019. A gentle progression which shows that female chefs no longer have complexes vis-à-vis their male counterparts. We recommend the article from the Michelin guide which draws up the “Portraits of six women of leadership and hats. When talent rhymes with temperament”.
“Hélène Darroze, Juliette Busetto, Coline Faulquier, Laetitia Visse, Claire Vallée and Nadia Sammut. Their common points: talent, enthusiasm, attraction to crossroads…”
Discover the 7 starred chefs in the world !
Towards parity in catering?
Parity, one of the major questions that arises in all sectors of activity and companies. In catering, the lines are moving, women are imposing themselves more and more . There are more women than before, although disparities still exist. Particularly in the representation of women according to the type of position (mostly in executive positions, women are more in the dining room than in the kitchen).
The profession of sommelier is also attracting more and more women. Great rewards for a profession of passion: Vanessa Massé , Pur & V, in Nice won the prize for “best sommelier of the year ”. Pascaline Lepeltier , MOF and Best Sommelier of France embodies the modern and dynamic figurehead of French sommellerie.
The Fork recently surveyed its community of professionals in the sector to gather their feelings about the place of women in the gastronomy sector in 2021: “Today we are seeing a real rise in the power of women in the sector”.
They represent between 31 and 50% of the workforce in the majority of brigades. In some establishments, the female sex is present on an equal basis with the male sex. In addition, the majority of them (51.3%) say they have experienced positive professional development over the past 5 years.
Prejudices and unfavorable working conditions for women increasingly push them to undertake in order to have more freedom and balance between professional and family life..
Positive figures that show a real evolution. Women dare and free themselves from prejudice. They follow their vocation and their passion to reveal their many talents.
Celebrating Women Chefs!
Vérane Frédiani, filmmaker, author, fine gourmet and convinced feminist, wants everyone to discover “the goddesses of professional cuisine, those who invent the gastronomy of today and tomorrow” .
” In search of women chefs” , documentary film – 2016
“Vérane Frédiani has traveled to the four corners of the planet to meet women chefs who are innovating in haute cuisine, in catering and in the food industry. We also meet sommeliers, activists, women entrepreneurs who manage brigades and fight daily to exist in men’s spheres, who advocate sustainable development, equality and who wish to change the world through their vision of gastronomy “.
” They cook”, book by Vérane Frédiani – 2018
“We are living a revolution! In my documentary ‘A la recherche des femmes chefs’, I showed once and for all that cooks are numerous. Two or three years and a #Metoo movement later, these women chefs are asserting themselves more than ever and this book is testimony to that”.
“Chefs” , book by Vérane Frédiani & Estérelle Payany – 2019
Women chefs are more and more visible, but how many are there in France? Vérane Frédiani and Estérelle Payany have launched a call on social networks for the women chefs of our country to come out of the woods . They thus undertook the first census of the genre of which this book is the culmination.
“Power in the kitchen chef, chef: paradox of a profession and gender disorder” , Martine Bourelly – 2010
Finally, we share with you a nice list of addresses of Chefs or restaurateurs who are moving the lines of gastronomy in Paris.
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