The #MeToo movement has shone a light on the unhealthy culture not unique to, but definitely prevalent in, the restaurant industry. With women making up about 51.8 percent of the industry, there comes a shift in what was once a predominately male-led space.
Meg Galus, executive pastry chef of Boka and Somerset explains how this movement is creating a ripple in the restaurant industry and is bringing an awakening in the kitchen.
“I think we’ve started to see the first steps of a big change… Realizing the things that … aren’t just people being attacked or harassed in a really obvious way. But starting to realize that the way that we speak to each other, the way that we treat each other, the way we set up our kitchens... And trying to do better, now that we know better,” she says.
Meg also speaks of falling victim to societal stereotypes like a female chef showing strong emotions versus a male chef yelling in a kitchen, and how they may be viewed differently.
Chef and owner of Prairie Grass Cafe, Sarah Stegner furthers the conversation by explaining how men and women should be treated now that this movement has come to light.
“I think as leaders in our industry, whether it’s our own little kitchens or a voice for other people, to be fair and professional. And have that be the overriding determining factors of how you treat people,” she says.
Sandra Holl, Pastry Chef and Owner of Floriole Cafe & Bakery agrees and adds that this “reckoning” has been a way to shift the way women and men are seen in the industry.
“Everyone is on the same page, finally. We’re not going to stand for this anymore. And, so it’s sort of a new beginning for our industry, I think, and a new beginning for women and for men, as well. To really be seen for their work as opposed to other things,” she says.
As the conversation with our Foodable host, Yareli Quintana, dives deeper, the group of women discuss their personal experiences.
Whether dealing with direct sexual assault or commentary directed towards their sexual identification, these women did not allow for it to shape them in a negative way. As they moved forward in their careers, their kitchens have been lead with a confidence that misconduct in this form will not be tolerated.
Leadership is a big part of moving past the #MeToo movement and creating a safer place for men and women. How a chef or manager leads their teams and demands respect amongst co-workers sets the bar for how employees are to interact with each other.
“When I was at the Ritz Carlton, the executive chef...he judged people by how much work they were able to produce and how good quality it was. He really didn’t care what age, race, sex you were. It was about the product and how hard you were willing to work for him to make the restaurant good,” said Stegner.
Positive influences from leaders can help shape the team and allow for women and men to shine equally and gain the experiences needed to grow in the industry. Lessons, like respect and having an open-door policy where employees can feel comfortable talking about sexual harassment issues, will follow those employees onwards to when they become leaders in their own kitchens. These lessons can help to develop trust in their future leadership career.
This episode will delve deeper into these chefs’ experiences, and how they have moved forward. From acknowledging female workplace stereotyping and sexual harassment. To positive leadership and empowering women and men, alike.
Take a listen for an empowering discussion about the future of female artisans making a difference in the restaurant industry.