Imbalance in the Kitchen

APTC Master Chef Patissier, Amanda Young pictured conducting a cooking demonstration during the Master Class Fiji 2017. Photo: THE COLESIUM. 

By ANA SOVA

It is not a secret there are people that still believe, on some level, that women belong in the kitchen.

The stereotype is somewhat reversed when it comes to professional kitchens.

Traditionally in our homes, women spend most of their time in the kitchen than men. But why are female executive chefs so rare?

Why aren’t there more women among Fiji’s elite chefs? Professional kitchens all over the world share the common challenge.

Managing Director of The Colesium, Valentin Corchado said many females get into culinary schools, but somewhere along the line they lose a lot of them.

Mr. Corchado has over 20 years experience covering all aspects of hotels and resorts in Fiji and abroad.

Since leaving Hilton Hotels he now runs his own training and development company, The Colesium, based in Australia and Fiji.

He said while some females join professional kitchens, others drop out while pursuing their interest in a culinary profession.

Managing Director of The Colesium, Valentin Corchado. Photo: THE COLESIUM.

“And for those that join, it’s also a challenge getting them to stay in the restaurant business,” Mr. Corchado said.

He said some women may depart to start a family.

“Being a chef doesn’t essentially mean you would have to sacrifice having a family or having children, but due to the demanding nature of the work it could mean you spending less time with them,” Mr. Corchado said.

He said they understood how important family values were in Fiji, but at the same time they want to make sure that females also have the opportunities to reach management level.

Some leave because of the hard culture in the kitchen.

Executive Chef of Tokoriki Island Resort, Ashim Singh said standing on your feet all day and yelling orders is very physically demanding.

“If you want a glamorous life out of becoming a chef, it’s hardly the reality. If you want to go hard and kill yourself with working long hours and being underpaid, then go ahead. The work is not about money it’s about sheer passion,” Mr. Singh said.

And for the women that decide to stay, Mr. Corchado said, they may only reach the level of becoming a demi-chef or line cook and not move to the top of the food chain.

He said they wanted more female participation.

“We have females with great capabilities, we have identified several of them in the industry, we just need to provide the opportunity to further educate them and support them to come to leading roles because definitely they can do it,” Mr. Corchado said.

He said women have certain attributes that men lack in the kitchen.

“They’re even better in certain areas. Women have a delicate touch and a certain passion. We want to make sure to give them the opportunity to try and create and put that passion on the plate,” Mr. Corchado said.

Last week, The Coliseum and a group of executive chefs and hospitality Industry professionals in the country and some from Australia facilitated an exciting project called Master Class Fiji at the Rhum Bar on Denarau Island.

Over the course of the four- day event a variety of workshops and cooking demonstrations were offered by these leading professionals.

He said the aim of the event was to support and promote equality and gender balance in professional kitchens, through the introduction of culinary scholarships for potential Fijian female chefs.

“The goal is to see the very first female executive chef Fiji made,” Mr. Corchado said.

He said the project achieved its goal and has raised enough money to provide the scholarships.

“We’re going to be announcing this and more details in the next week or so. It adds a great twist to the whole Master Class Fiji,”

“The scholarship is open for any female who is interested in culinary whether they’ve been in the industry or new to the industry, I encourage you to give it a go and apply,” Mr. Corchado said.

He said they will also be involving some high-end resorts and professional people that are willing to provide mentorship to the scholarship recipients.