I was in Indianapolis working an intense food weekend at the NCAA Final Four and I had something interesting occur that rarely happens. What, you ask? I met a chef. Well, that’s not the interesting part because it is only natural that I would be dealing a chef. But this wasn’t any executive chef; it was a female executive chef — at the Conrad Hotel, no less.
Now I know I have my dear readers confused, thinking, “What is the big deal about this?” Well it is a big deal for a lot of reasons. In my nine years of running Rx for Catering LLC, I have only dealt with a few female executive hotel chefs. The Conrad is an international hotel chain, so Executive Chef Michele not only has to be good, she must be great in order to win respect as the head of the kitchen. After all, her XY-chromosome counterparts are eyeballing her every step of the way. So how has Executive Chef Michele stood up to this challenge? Very well, thank you very much. We all walked away with a food hangover.
This experience really got me thinking about the differences of working with male vs. female chefs. It also made me realize that I have bought into the expectation of only seeing women at home, not in hotel, kitchens. I was surprised at how strange it felt to be working with a female executive chef.
So what were the big differences I experienced working with X-factor (female) vs. Y-factor (male) chefs? For starters, they take what they do even more seriously then their male counterparts because there are fewer of them. They understand the challenges of the kitchen from a different point of view, are equally respected by their staff and are efficient leaders. Don’t mess with them. Don’t underestimate their cooking and management skills. My experience with female chefs is that they are strong, but not ego-driven like some of their male counterparts. I also find female chefs, in general, have a better developed understanding of flavors and texture. Regarding presentation, they are on common ground with their male counterparts.
Should you end up in a hotel working with a female executive chef — go ahead and give her a run for her money. I guarantee my X-factor chefs will step up to the culinary plate and pleasantly surprise you.
This is my story for now and I will be sticking to it.