Makan

Why do women chefs keep missing out on Michelin stars?

Women may do the lion's share of cooking all over the world, but when it comes to haute cuisine, they are still almost invisible.

Only one woman, Anne-Sophie Pic, holds the maximum three Michelin stars in France.

Only 2.7 per cent of Michelin-starred restaurants are run by women in the country regarded as the world centre of gastronomy.

And for the second time in three years, no women chefs got new stars individually in the 2018 French Michelin list- although two shared the honours with their partners.

Gender is "not something we take into account. Our inspectors are there to check the quality of the cuisine", insisted Mr Michael Ellis, international director of the guides.

"We don't look at the chef's sex, origin or age," he added.

Yet, women remain a tiny minority in the often macho and highly-competitive world of haute cuisine, holding less than 5 per cent of Michelin stars globally.

Only one woman made the list of new stars awarded in France in 2017 and only two figured in the British-based World's 50 Best Restaurants classification.

HOPEFUL

Mr Ellis is hopeful more of them will make it.

"There are lots of women working in kitchens, although often they are not yet chefs... It is only a matter of time (before they are running the kitchens)," he said.

But one of the two women chefs who got a Michelin star this time insisted that the playing field is far from level.

"In the kitchen, a woman has to always show that she is twice as good as a man," said Malaysian-born Kwen Liew, who won her first star with her Japanese partner Ryunosuke Naito for their Pertinence restaurant in Paris.

"It is not easy for women in the kitchen. So I act like a man there," she said.

"It depends on the mentality of the personnel, but (in general) men do not listen to women, they say, 'We don't give a damn what she says'."

The number of women in French cookery schools, however, is rising fast, and they now outnumber men in patisserie training courses, said Mr Ellis.

"A lot of chef-proprietors think themselves all-powerful. It's total out-and-out machismo," said Brazilian chef Alessandra Montagne, who worked in several top restaurants before opening her own Paris establishments.

"When someone told me, 'You are good for nothing', I never let myself be beaten. I just put my head down and persevered."- AFP

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