When you search “skirt steak” on Google, the second result that comes up is Skirt Steak: 5 Ways to Cook It | The Art Of Manliness, a restaurant review followed by a few recipes for way to prepare skirt steak. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this result — but if you’ve just read Charlotte Druckman’s food novel Skirt Steak, Women Chefs on Standing the Heat and Staying in the Kitchen, you may find the search results a bit ironic.
In an interview with the book’s author, Charlotte Druckman, she tells The Daily Meal, “I had no interest in writing my own book. And I never thought that if I did, it would be about women in the workplace or gender issues. But when I look back, I see this was probably bound to happen.”
After attending a well-known, New York-based all-girls school, Druckman found herself pursuing an Art History degree and was reading Linda Nochlin’s well-known essay Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists? In her essay, Nochlin addresses that women artists act both as artists and models for their work, just as Druckman implies that it might be possible female chefs do, or rather be, the same. When asked why write the book about gender association in the culinary world, Druckman replied:
“I had this feeling that the perceived [notion that there is a] lack of women chefs wasn’t legit; that something else was at play and that…I might be responsible or accountable in some way for creating a bizarre self-fulfilling prophecy (or myth) of there being: a) no ‘great’ women chefs and b)no women chefs, period.”
This cleverly titled book, bound by a hard black shell and decorated with pink and white typeface, prefaces what’s on the inside — women in the culinary world who are nothing shy of a cleaver cutout. With women like Loretta Keller, who Druckman claims shoots robins from the sky every morning for breakfast, and the infamous Christina Tosi, from Momufoku Milk Bar, who the author also attributes as having the talent of making ice cream that tastes like ‘Mr. Softee dropped Acid’ (and if she ever releases a Wheat Thins flavor, we will know who to thank), it’s hard not to take solace in the rebel portrait that Druckman is painting for us in these brilliantly written twelve chapters.
Druckman’s punchy footnotes reflect how she feels about each of the seventy-three women she chose to interview for her book, whom she refers to as “so remarkably and literally awesome.” While the story certainly carries itself, Druckman inserts a footnote about Jay-Z every once in a while, which never hurts and teaches us about her obsession with the rapper. She also interviews women who have shaken the culinary world to its core: women like Gabrielle Hamilton, who many know from her successful recent novel, Blood, Bones, & Butter. In her interview with Hamilton, the two found ease in gossiping about Top Chef’s exploitation of ‘Chefs’ who couldn’t shuck oysters with the author.
Reading these interviews, it is as if you’ve known Druckman for your entire life, and perhaps that’s because she writes with the grace and conviction of a lifelong friend.
Through these intimate interviews, the author allows the reader to step behind the privatized lines of the culinary world and place themselves alongside the women who are constantly facing all kinds of heat that comes with working in the kitchen.