How This Program is Cultivating Female Chefs to be Next-Generation Leaders and Activists



Restaurant kitchens are still dominated by the male sex and men earn an average of 28.1% more than female chefs, according to recent statistics from Glassdoor.

But thanks to the #MeToo movement and other activist movements aiming to diversify kitchens, the industry is changing for the better.

According to the National Restaurant Association, more than half of the restaurants in the U.S. are owned or are co-owned by women. 45% of restaurant managers are women, compared to the 38% of female managers found in other industries.

This is certainly a step in the right direction.

Edward Lee, a restaurateur and chef of five restaurants, founded The LEE Initiative, the nonprofit behind the Women Chefs of Kentucky Initiative. This program helps to cultivate female chefs to be much more than someone who cooks in the kitchen.

"What we're looking for are young women chefs who are not only going to rise to be great chefs, owners, investors, what have you, but also great activists for the next generation," said Lee to "PBS NewsHour."

Five chefs were selected for the first year of the program. The goal is to launch more female leaders into the industry.

"We wanted a way to bridge the gap between women in leadership roles and women at the bottom in the restaurant industry," said Lindsey Ofcacek, The LEE Initiative's managing director. "When you come in, you see a lot of women who are servers and back waits and bussers and bartenders, but you don't meet a lot of women who are general managers, chefs and owners."

Read more about some of the chefs participating in the program and about their experience so far at "PBS" now.

Besides programs like Women Chefs of Kentucky Initiative, there is also a new generation of female super-star chefs who are working tirelessly to make a name for themselves and to introduce more of their culture in the culinary scene.

Chef and restaurant operator Jennifer Kim opened a new restaurant in Chicago named Passerotto last year with the goal of serving a modern take on traditional Korean food. Watch the video below to learn more about her journey in the restaurant industry.