Monday, October 8, 2007

Boys Club

Kitchens have traditionally been the domain of males, it's still largely a male dominated industry. Fair warning this is a bit of a rant.

For me, this has become an increasing frustration. I've faced other cooks and chef's who actually, whole heartedly believe that a woman does not belong on the line. For those not in the know - the line refers to the hellhole of heat and adrenalin that works at insane speeds to produce all the lovely food you eat. And I love it. I love the adrenalin rush, I love the challenge.
And I think I'm pretty good in that area. I take pride in my work, I would never send out a plate that was below my personal standards - which are pretty high.

In recent months I've managed to change many an opinion about women on the line. At least if they are women like me. Another thing to understand about the line is that the boys back here, they don't pull their punches. They make crude jokes, say just about anything and in the middle of this kind of stress, lots of things can and will be said. It's not a place for a girlie girl, not a place for sensitive people of any sort. Which is why I love to play with the big boys as I say, I can give as well as I take and though some would say that standing up for myself and my work has no place in the kitchen; I think they're full of crap. If I believe I have shown my best, done my best every night then you better believe that if you're criticizing my work I'm going to confront you about why. Give me something constructive, don't just insult me and my work without reason.

But there are always going to be those who will never even give me the chance to prove myself. Everything that goes wrong is suddenly my fault if I was involved in it or not. There are even those who will set me up to fail. Which seems to be the unfortunate circumstances I have currently been dealing with.

I have been working at the same Inn for just over a year, granted it was on and off during my schooling as I had set my priorities and stuck with them. They've been understanding of this, which was good. I've been back full time since the end of August and in that time I was elated to have been offered a new position and a raise.
The new position - breakfast/lunch cook. The reason I love this position? It allows for far more creativity then the night time line. I have the opportunity to make my own soups, sauces and come up with sandwiches for the day. What I didn't like was that I was provided with no training to do this job. I don't need to be taught how to cook, but one of the most important things about the restaurant biz is consistency. And I was never shown the plating for any of our breakfast dishes and perhaps only a quarter of our lunch dishes. And I do this job alone. It's been beyond frustrating to not have the proper tools to do my job as it should be done, and that frustration is only doubled by the fact that I am a bit of a perfectionist.

What really threw me for a loop recently, was my Executive Chef. I thought since he had offered me this position he had finally started to see some of my potential, the abilities I had to offer; that maybe he had even started to respect me as a cook.

I was horribly wrong.

Apparently I had only caught him between a rock and a hard place. He had no other options but me, so placed me in the position. It's humbling, it's insulting, it makes me unbelievably angry. He has apparently taken no notice of my skill or talent. He has no idea whatsoever of my abilities in a kitchen and by his own words believes that I am useless and should not be there. Talk about harsh and a huge blow to my confidence for a while until I realized one simple thing.

He never wanted to see what I could do. He never cared to see it. He never will see it.

It would never matter how hard I work, he's stuck in his opinion. He does not trust women, he is unable to talk to women and he's far too focused on the fact that I am a woman. But you know what, when I step into that kitchen I'm not a woman.

I'm a damn cook!

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