Book Reviews

Taking the heat

Taking The Heat is the first scholarly book examining the reasons for female chefs’ relative absence from prominence and promotion to becoming leaders of big kitchen brigades.

Both authors are sociologists at the Texas State University and approached their research on content analysis of the food media to understand more about how chefs are evaluated and promoted; they then conducted in-depth interviews with women chefs, some of whom had started their own businesses, while others started working in food related businesses i.e large grocery chains as purchasers. The authors sent out in-depth interview questionnaires before actually meeting for the interviews.

The authors explain why they decided to examine the lack of opportunities for women chefs to advice, then proceed to write about the history of professional crews in France, how and why American chefs became celebrities, the nature of kitchen work, implications and limitations of gender, and exploring why and how women chefs look at their successes or lack thereof, and finally draw conclusions.

This a valuable book for all restaurateurs, and those inspiring to become involved in the industry.

First and foremost, Taking The Heat is an American book written with American values and traditions in mind, and should be read with that premise in mind.

Explaining why women cooks have a disadvantage physically stems from the fact that in the 18th century, kitchen work required physical strength in lifting heavy pots full of hot liquids, as well as huge sacks of flours, whole animal carcasses, and exposure to extreme heat.

Modern North American kitchens and practices are more amenable for women to advance, and by al accounts women are being promoted, albeit not as often as desirable.

The bigger problem is the American family structure and ideals that more or less dictate families to live separate from their parents, which makes it more difficult to raise offerings due to professional work schedules.

Kitchen work by necessity is physically demanding, and few women are prepared to mentally and physically take on demanding positions.

Women can and do succeed in professional kitchens when managers and their partners support them

Intellectually, they can manage to juggle administrative work, artistically excel, and lead large kitchen brigades

Taking The Heat should be required reading in all culinary schools and for every individual contemplating to study culinary arts, or start an apprenticeship.

Highly recommended.


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