It might be in the kitchen, but that’s not in one of the world’s 50 best restau­rants, ap­par­ently

Sunday Times - - Cheffing -

The San Pel­le­grino list of the world’s 50 best restau­rants was an­nounced this week. It was, as usual, dom­i­nated by mul­ti­course tast­ing menus, huge price tags, Euro­pean desti­na­tions, and men. Yes, one of the most news­wor­thy de­vel­op­ments of the list is not the name of the chef who has risen to the top like a per­fect souf­flé — Massimo Bottura — but who was left out. Women. Al­most en­tirely. Five of the 50 top chefs are women.

Ate­lier Crenn’s chef and owner Do­minique Crenn, pic­tured, was the re­cip­i­ent of the pa­tro­n­is­ing “Best fe­male chef of the year” ti­tle in 2016. This is odd, be­cause her res­tau­rant wasn’t ranked in 2016. In 2017 she de­buted on the long list at No 83, and this year dropped off the list en­tirely.

This week Crenn shunned the event at which the list was an­nounced. In­stead, the two-Miche­lin-star chef at­tended a char­ity event to raise money for women’s health. The day be­fore the awards she gave an in­ter­view to the Wash­ing­ton Post call­ing the fe­male chef award “stupid” and ac­cus­ing the World’s 50 Best fra­ter­nity of treat­ing women “as if we are a sport”.

The cri­te­ria for this of­fen­sive award seem non­sen­si­cal. Of the eight women who have been awarded it since 2011, none have had their restau­rants fea­tured on the list of the top 50. So we can as­sume that, ac­cord­ing to the awards, the best fe­male chef on Earth is still not as good as the 50th-best male chef.

That’s not to say that there are not restau­rants on the list in which women hold key po­si­tions. The num­ber of fe­male chefs (or co-chefs) on the list in­creased from last year’s three to five in 2018: Cen­tral by Pia León and Vir­gilio Martínez; Arzak by Elena and Juan Mari Arzak; Hiša Franko by Ana Ros; Cosme by Daniela Soto-Innes and En­rique Olvera; and Nahm by Pim Techamuan­vivit.

It’s pretty out­ra­geous that the chefs on the “women only” list haven’t been hon­oured in the world rank­ings. Why are we sin­gling out women for praise based on gen­der alone?

Mark Dur­den-Smith, one of the pre­sen­ters at the awards, said: “It’s all about girl power tonight.”

My re­sponse is the fol­low­ing: firstly, fe­male chefs are not “girls”, and, se­condly, it can hardly be con­sid­ered a fe­male for­ward event when only two of the restau­rants on the list, Nahm and Hiša Franko, are run with­out male co-chefs.

As a fe­male chef I ask my­self, why are women si­mul­ta­ne­ously praised for their ca­pac­ity to do great work while at the same time sys­tem­at­i­cally excluded from the top hon­ours on the se­ri­ous list?

This award en­trenches gen­der bias while at the same time re­it­er­at­ing its at­tempt to move be­yond it.

Clare Smyth, the 2018 re­cip­i­ent of the world’s best fe­male chef award, said: “For the last 10 years of my ca­reer I’ve been asked what it’s like to be a fe­male chef, to which I al­ways re­ply, ‘I’m not sure what you mean, I’ve never been a male chef’.”

Her res­tau­rant, Core, did not make this year’s world’s best restau­rants list.

Best fe­male chef of 2016 Crenn posted a screen­shot of the ju­rors for the San Pel­le­grino 2018 Young Chef com­pe­ti­tion that went vi­ral be­cause all 37 ju­rors were men.

She took to Instagram to call out the com­pany for its lack of fair rep­re­sen­ta­tion, com­ment­ing: “I thought we all got the memo that women are 50% of the pop­u­la­tion. Oh wait . . . 54%.”


Ate­lier Crenn’s chef and owner Do­minique Crenn, was the re­cip­i­ent of the pa­tro­n­is­ing “best fe­male chef of the year”, 2016.

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