Women in Whites on Gender Debate, What's Next

At the James Beard Foundation Gala, we asked chefs what the food world should be talking about
Staff Writer
The James Beard Foundation Gala pulled together women in whites to celebrate their often overlooked accomplishments.

On Nov. 15, the 2013 James Beard Foundation Gala brought out chefs like Dominique Crenn, Barbara Lynch, Kristen Kish, Melissa Kelly, and Sherry Yard to celebrate their success in one dinner, and if it seems like the lineup was a bit gender-biased, it was. The 2013 gala was themed "Women in Whites," fitting, following TIME's omission of female chefs in their recent "13 Gods of Food" feature.

Of course, by the time of the event the matter had been settled. "I don't think you can deny the great women, and the thousands of women, who have worked in this industry and are making the industry better everyday, and making strides for us, and making our world taste better," Gail Simmons said. And as evidenced by the roster, there are plenty of women who are doing that.

"These women are fierce, we’re here tonight, and Beard totally gets it, so why are we giving up our power to a writer?" Pegu Club's Audrey Saunders said at the gala. "The women who were not included on this list? The large omissions? They know what time it is. They’re like, oh please."

So who should've been on that list? Kristen Kish listed Barbara Lynch, her mentor, Daniel Boulud, and Marco Pierre White as her main influencers. Dominique Crenn noted Anne-Sophie Pic and Elena Arzak. And Lynch herself said that when she was younger she had her heroes: Alain Ducasse and Joël Robuchon. "After my eighth restaurant I’m very happy to be Barbara Lynch," Lynch said. "That's who I want to be."

Even then, do these chefs deserve titles as "gods of food"? While the conversation has focused on who has the most restaurants, the biggest geographic scope, or who makes the most money, Lynch and others think there are bigger fish to fry.

"Put three people on the f*cking cover of TIME magazine that can teach kids how to cook, and families how to cook, and teach how one chicken can make three meals," Lynch said. "Put them on the cover if they can help get rid of welfare, put them on the f*cking cover if they can fight obesity, and then call them gods."

And even if TIME editor Howard Chua-Eoan doesn't believe "the media has to advocate for anything," Dominique Crenn hopes the media will advocate for better health information, instead of cooking competitions. "We have a lot of problems with obesity, the food at school, the farm bill, and no one is doing shows about this. I mean, it’s weird," Crenn said. "The media is the platform to do this, do something with kids, bring knowledge to the masses, and that’s something that we need to work on."

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