Why Are Only 7% of Head Chefs & Restaurant Owners Women?

If we were to ask you to name a celebrity chef, the odds are that a male personality would come to mind more easily than a female. The fact is, culinary is still a male-dominated industry. But why is it that women are underrepresented in the culinary industry? 

Women In Culinary

According to a recent survey by the James Beard Foundation, only 24% of restaurant chef positions are held by women. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. When it comes to leadership roles in the culinary industry, the numbers are even more dismal – only 7% of head chefs and restaurant owners are women!

So why is there such a disparity? Women in the culinary industry are often paid less, receive fewer promotions, and are subjected to more harassment than their male counterparts. The wage gap between men and women head chefs in the U.S. is significant, with women earning an average of 28% less than their male counterparts and this gap is even greater for women of color. Needless to say, the incentives to enter the industry as a woman are low.

Overcoming Challenges

But times are changing, and women are breaking down barriers and shattering glass ceilings in the culinary world. Women in the culinary industry face a range of challenges, from discrimination and sexual harassment to lack of mentorship and access to funding. Yet, they persevere and continue to push forward, paving the way for future generations of women in the culinary industry.

When we asked our female culinary contributors to share what motivates them to stay in the industry, their responses were not of victims but of champions competing in the arena:

emily hyland

In a world that’s less and less binary, for me, it’s not so much about being a woman in a male-dominated field that drives me, but more about simply being a person who does her best to show up with integrity, patience, and kindness.

Emily Hyland, Emily Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
Nicole Krasinski

Being a mentor, and not just to the kitchen team but also to the front of the house team. When our staff sees women in positions of decision-making and watches women advance through the different departments, going from being a line cook then advancing to a GM, this gives them confidence that there is space and opportunity for them in this industry if they have the drive and skills.

Nicole Krasinski, State Bird Provisions
danielle dang

My strengths and experiences have prepared me to handle exactly those things: stress, pressure, and leadership. I don’t let men or others discredit me. I don’t apologize to them for being a strong force or out-performing them. Men are just going to have to continue making room for me (you), and other strong women who deserve at least to be on their equal platform.

Danielle Dang, Haisous Vietnamese Kitchen 

Women Leaders In Culinary

Over the years, we’ve seen some significant changes in the culinary industry. Women are no longer relegated to the pastry station or salad prep. They’re leading their kitchens with confidence and creativity, making waves in the culinary world. Women chefs are gaining recognition for their innovative dishes, bold flavors, and unique perspectives.

Some notable women in the culinary industry include:

  • Dominique Crenn: A French chef based in San Francisco, Crenn was the first woman in the United States to receive three Michelin stars for her restaurant Atelier Crenn. She’s known for her inventive dishes that celebrate the intersection of art and food.
  • Mashama Bailey: A James Beard Award-winning chef based in Savannah, Georgia, Bailey is the co-owner of The Grey, a restaurant housed in a restored Greyhound bus station. She’s celebrated for her innovative takes on Southern cuisine.
  • Asma Khan: A chef and restaurateur based in London, Khan is the owner of Darjeeling Express, a restaurant that celebrates the flavors of India. She’s known for her commitment to empowering women in the culinary industry, and her restaurant employs a team of all-female chefs.
  • Nancy Silverton (who we proudly feature on our site): A chef, baker, and restaurateur based in Los Angeles, Silverton is the founder of La Brea Bakery and Mozza Restaurant Group. She’s known for her mastery of bread-making and her commitment to sustainable sourcing.
  • Ana Ros: A Slovenian chef and restaurateur, Ros is the owner of Hiša Franko, a restaurant that celebrates the flavors of the Alpine region. She’s known for her use of local and foraged ingredients and her innovative approach to traditional Slovenian dishes.

These women are just a few examples of the many talented and inspiring women in the culinary industry. They’re paving the way for future generations of women, proving that women can be just as successful and innovative in the kitchen as men.

How You Can Support Women In Culinary

So, what can we do to support women in the culinary industry? Well, for starters, we can seek out and support female-led restaurants. We can share their stories and celebrate their successes. We can also mentor and support young women who are interested in pursuing culinary careers.

Check out our lineup of female culinary leaders in the Culinary Contributors section of the site to learn more about these amazing women. Then share their recipes with your friends and family to help promote their businesses and the causes they support.

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