Female chefs take charge in the kitchen

The restaurant industry has continued to push culinary boundaries in recent decades, yet kitchens around the world continue to be staffed overwhelmingly by men. For an authentic representation of cuisine in the 21st century, the industry needs a well-balanced mix of men and women producing great-quality food. Fortunately a new wave of female chefs has kick-started a trend that is evening things up.

Take Yuki Chizui, the manager of Nadeshiko Sushi – Japan’s first sushi bar to be entirely staffed by women. Disillusioned by her previous job, Chizui opened the restaurant six years ago in Tokyo’s Akihabara neighbourhood. Owing to the conservative nature of Japanese society, Chizui has received criticism and even insults for her decision to enter what has traditionally been a male-only discipline. Although she may currently be in a minority, the Tokyo Sushi Academy is seeing one-fifth of places on its two-month course being taken up by women – a sign that the craft may be widening its demographic.

On the other side of the Pacific, women account for just 4.7 per cent of head chef positions in the US but a handful of creative women are challenging the status quo. Take Nancy Silverton, the master baker who in 2014 won the James Beard Foundation’s outstanding chef award, or French-born Dominique Crenn who, along with having earned two Michelin stars, was chosen as Esquire’s best chef in America in 2008.

Then there’s Niki Nakayama, the Japanese-American chef who was brought to a global audience last year through her appearance on Netflix’s Chef’s Table, a television series that documents the stories of six of the world’s best chefs. These are just some of the women succeeding in the industry but there are many more talented individuals diversifying the kitchens of America’s restaurants.

Around the world creative chefs are exciting diners with ever-more global menus, while increased awareness of the advantages of locally sourced produce is shortening the journey that ingredients take from farm to plate. Lifestyle trends among an urbanised global population are fuelling growth that has the industry set to be valued at $3.5 trillion by the end of this year. Authenticity, however, requires an inclusive industry where both men and women are represented. Let’s hope the growing trend of female chefs building successful careers in the restaurant industry is here to stay.