When last we checked in with the debate regarding differences in the way that male and female chefs cook, the London Times was spouting a bunch of sexist nonsense and New York Times food critic Frank Bruni had been accused of being less than fair to women in the kitchen. Now, over a month later, Mike Weiss has published a provocative cover story in the San Francisco Chronicle’s Sunday magazine looking at the differences between dishes produced by chefs of different genders.
White’s story is much more thoughtful than the similarly-themed piece in the London Times. While the Times’ Shiela Keating assumed automatically that female chefs are less innovative than those risk-taking chefs of the male persuasion, White examines why he tends to prefer meals cooked by women. Given that he is writing for the Chronicle, he focuses his investigation on the San Francisco cooking scene, which is, by all accounts, something of a haven for female chefs. During his exploration, Weiss visits chef and author Joyce Goldstein who opines that there are two kinds of cooks, “mama cooks,” who aim to satisfy eaters, and “show-off cooks,” who are there to dazzle you. Goldstein claims that while there are mama cooks of both sexes, show-off cooks tend to be exclusively male.
While its true that the most widely known show-off cooks (from Wylie Dufresne of wd-50 to Ferran Adria, the granddaddy of molecular gastronomy to Top Chef contestant Marcel Vigneron) are men, we find it doubtful that there are virtually no women interested in that sort of cooking. Our theory? Goldstein is correct that there are two types of chefs: those who aim to comfort and those who aspire to awe. Rather than being gendered divisions, however, we suspect that they’re based on some combination of personality and philosophy. That’s our theory, at least. What’s yours?
What is it about the cooking of WOMEN CHEFS that makes it more memorable, more comforting than that of men? [San Francisco Chronicle]
Take the Serious Eats ‘Mama’ vs. ‘Show-Off’ Cook’s Test [Serious Eats]
SF Chronicle on Women Chefs [Serious Eats]