Friday, December 09, 2011

The Korean Street Truck Adventures: Chapter 2: Sexism in the Kitchen

Korean Street Truck Adventures: Chapter 2
Kermit always said it wasn’t easy being green, but sometimes I think that being a female in the culinary profession is just as hard.

Ever wonder about all that stuff that Anthony Bourdain talks about in his books? It is all true, to varying degrees of course, being a part of the culinary world requires being a little bit crazy. (Okay, maybe a LOT of crazy) One of my favorite quotes about being a chef actually comes from the Korean drama "Pasta." “Being a chef is like digging a well in the desert”

In other words, a crazy endeavor that sometimes pays off.

Being a woman in a kitchen requires you to be even crazier. Everything is built for the men, right down to the clothes. Sure, now they make “women’s cut” pants and jackets but trust me, that has only been in the last 5 years. Even with these modified cuts, there is no good way to look like a girl. Hair pulled back and under a hat, no makeup or jewelry, a boxy jacket and even boxier pants and people tend to forget that you are of the female persuasion. Add in the ability to swear like a sailor and make dirty jokes and as long as you not only hold your own but work harder you might get called “dude” more than once.

The only time this works to one’s advantage is walking to your car alone at 11 or 12 at night and hoping nobody notices that you are a woman.

What is even crazier than wanting to work long hours around dangerous, fiery equipment with (sometimes) insane, sexist jerks for next to no recognition?

Striking out to start your own business.

The comments from well meaning friends and coworkers are rough to put it nicely. Honestly I think one would get a better response if you said you were joining the circus.

“You should stay working for a company because you will need health insurance later on”

“You should work your way up the corporate ladder first”

“Why would you want to work so hard?”

Ironic how that last one I heard ten years ago when I wanted to go to culinary school. Maybe that is why all this type of “advice” goes in one ear and right out the other. I don’t expect everyone to understand why I have embarked on this journey; dreams are hardly ever understood by anyone but the dreamer.

 It does start to wear on you though; makes you second guess yourself in the dark of the night. (Remember that insomnia?) What keeps me going through it all has been to always remind myself that anything worth doing will be hard work but if it is to be it is up to me. I defied the odds going to culinary school and still being in the industry now, when I graduated most women didn’t last past 5 years.

Time to roll those dice again.

The Korean Street Truck Adventures are the real adventures of a female chef that is starting her own Korean street truck business in middle-America. This is her true story. Names and locations have been omitted. You can leave Ms. L a message in the comment section of this post.
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