In November of last year, Time magazine’s Gods of Food issue features only a list of 13 chefs of which, none was a woman. There are many female chefs like Nigella Lawson and Julia Child who are household names but the culinary profession is still a male dominated. An example is the television series, MasterChef, despite having both women and men contestants competing for the show’s top prize, the show’s judges are all men.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day, take the time to appreciate the women who strive to break the glass ceiling and one such woman is Chef Ms. Nadia Frisina – new head chef of The Westin Beijing Financial Street’s Italian restaurant. We interviewed her to learn more about the ups and downs of working in a man’s world.
When did you realize that being a chef is the job for you?
I studied law in university and I have worked in a law firm and a phone company, while working I’ve decided to follow my passion for the kitchen and I found a job in a big restaurant in Milan. I was really tired after my first working day but I was very happy, from that moment I realized that being a chef is what I want to do for the rest of my life.
What’s the most asked question when people find out you’re a chef?
Usually they are very curious to know how I become a chef. The kitchen world belongs to everyone and we all have childhood memories related to the food and the kitchen.
Is it more difficult for women to make an impact in this industry than men?
It’s really hard for a woman to establish her own statues in a predominantly male industry and this is evident in all the aspects of my daily work. But I love to accomplish tough jobs and I’m a stubborn woman. Taking challenge is what I do.
What could be scary and intimidating for a female chef in the kitchen at the beginning?
Well, you must demonstrate that you are competent, diplomatic and well-prepared as or even more then a man. At the first time this could be intimidating, but with time it becomes a daily routine. At the end what I care is a good kitchen and pretty dishes.
Do you think that female chefs are more celebrated now than ever? Why?
There were great female chefs both in the past and now. As I remember from my childhood, I saw my mother and my aunts in the kitchen turning up the fun, the women of my family, not the men. Today the life of modern women has changed, they are not just mothers and wives but independent women with growing careers and this is also true in the chefs’ world.
How do you enjoy being a female chef?
I express my femininity through creation when preparing dishes. I put the ingredient which I called “emotion” into my recipe to create unique dining experiences for my guests which make them feel what I feel, and this is natural for me just because I am a woman.
What are the benefits to be one of the few girls in the kitchen?
The benefits are not many but are very positive: We are still few and the good chefs have the occasion to affirm themselves, and then we also have a private dressing room 🙂
Why do you think that there are so many male chefs and female food writers? Working as a chef is a time-consuming job. There’s not much spare time for family or having children if you are a female chef. However, for men it is much easier, they have different social roles and nobody expect them to take care of kids, etc. meanwhile, many women with a great talent in the kitchen love to research for ingredients, they care about alimentation and eventually they show their passion in writing and become excellent food writers.