Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #StrengthHasNoGender #CollectiveBias
Strength comes in all kinds of packages! Today I’m sharing my story of what it takes to be a female chef and how I found the strength to dream big, work hard, overcome obstacles to accomplish my goals of becoming a chef!
When I decided to go to culinary school, many years ago, I knew it would be hard. Not only was I taking on a large financial responsibility to go, but I was packing up and leaving a small town that I loved and had called home for several years to move to a big city. A city several hours away, that I had only visited a few times before and where I knew no one.
And even though I had been cooking and baking since I was a small girl, the world of culinary arts and the food and beverage industry was an all-new territory. I never worked in a restaurant, or really knew anyone who did. And to be honest, while I have always been an avid cook and baker, until culinary school there were so many foods and cooking techniques that I had never tried or even heard of.
But I was determined. Cooking was what made me happy and what, after trying many things, I knew I wanted to make a career out of. So, I worked hard. I carefully planned and saved money. And made the move.
Little did I know the challenges I would face in this journey. While many home cooks are women, the professional culinary world is still predominately run by men. This was quickly evident when I walked into the classroom the first day of culinary school, to see out of approximately 25 students only 5 of us were women. And my first restaurant job, that I started right before I started culinary school, well every cook and manger was also male.
And while I’ve never been a “girly girl”, having always loved things like camping, hiking and fishing; and have always had the mentality that I can do anything a guy can do (but better ?), it really never occurred to me how this attitude (and my sarcasm) would help me so much in this career path.
In culinary school the guys would always make jokes that us girls weren’t cut out for the restaurant industry. And the few days that I missed class because I was sick, I was welcomed back with “oh, what, you skipped class because you couldn’t handle the heat.” But I held my head high and the other girls in the class and I worked hard and had each other’s back.
After graduating and continuing to gain experience in the culinary industry, there were more challenges. Chefs losing their temper, screaming, yelling and calling names, chefs and fellow co-workers cracking rude and insulting jokes and doubting I had the skills or knowledge to be a chef. Having a thick skin and being able to stand up for yourself is crucial in this industry. As a woman chef, I constantly feel like I have to prove myself and show my strength to not only my male peers, but to other women chefs and customers as well. Not only is the work of a chef mentally exhausting, it is physically demanding with long, long days (some days 12-14 hours) and back breaking work, you also miss out on a lot because you are typically working nights, weekends and holidays.
Over the years there have been many times I have wanted to give up, and at one point I actually did, when I left the industry to work an office job at a financial firm for a few years. But I am always drawn back because, in the end, it is what I love and there is nothing else I am more passionate about! Besides, there’s nothing quite like that feeling of seeing a big smile on a bride’s face as she walks in and sees her wedding cake for the first time and hearing that what you made is “so good” never gets old!
To help push me and keep me inspired, through the years, I have sought out the guidance of other female chefs. I have done some work for a catering company, a bakery, a packaged meal prep company and two different culinary schools all run by talented women chefs. Not only have I learned from and been inspired by these amazing hard working women, but there are so many other amazingly talented, strong hard working women chefs that I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with personally or that have inspired me as I have watched them in the spotlight or dined at their restaurants.
Today, through strength, passion, determination and hard work, I now work as a cooking instructor, personal chef, food writer and blogger. I have been blessed with many opportunities and have traveled all over to work as a chef. From catering large parties, to working as a personal chef at client’s vacation home, to managing and training other aspiring chefs, to performing cooking demonstrations on TV and at special events, and even working as the head chef at a hunting lodge (where I learned even more about strength from experienced women hunters!).
Even though I have over 10 years of experience in a variety of positions in the culinary industry, I am constantly channeling that inner strength I worked hard to achieve when I first went off to culinary school. Even after teaching countless cooking classes and performing live cooking demonstrations, I often still get nervous right before each one. But then I take a deep breath, remind myself of how strong I am and how much I know, and I go on and rock it.
And in this line of work, you have to think quick, when often you face challenging situations like forgetting ingredients and there is no time to run to the store, or having to work in small spaces with little or improper equipment or when the power goes out.
Because I am so passionate about what I do, I love to help other women who are considering working in the food and beverage industry. I share my story, and am always happy to be a person other aspiring young female chefs can talk to about the challenges women face in this industry and to provide any guidance, resources and support that I can.
In addition to preparing yourself to be strong both physically and mentally, I encourage any woman looking to pursue a career in culinary arts, to speak with other women in the industry. Take a job or internship working in the industry before going to culinary school, to see if this really is the right career for you.
I also encourage other women chefs that I mentor to set goals and to reflect on them often. To read the stories of other inspiring women, to network and to support other women in the industry. And to not take things personally, because in the end, it’s just food.
Since I am a firm believer that us women need to stick together, I was more than thrilled to learn about the Strength Has No Gender™ campaign by Brawny®. This campaign is to highlight everyday women, like female chefs, who are breaking down barriers in traditionally male-dominated industries; and to help inspire and bring together women across the country.
As a chef I am constantly using paper towels to help me in the kitchen, from washing and drying produce, to wiping a plate clean before serving, to cleaning up spills, and Brawny® Paper Towels are always there to help clean up whatever life throws at me. (Pro Chef Tip: Did you know for safety you should put a damp paper towel under your cutting board to keep it from moving while you chop!)
That’s why it was exciting to see the new Brawny® Pick-a-Size 8 Giant Plus (which have more sheets per roll than leading national brands) showing a woman instead of a man (exclusive to Walmart, limited-edition Strength Has No Gender™ pack) to encourage all women to break gender stereotypes.
I’ve shared my Strength Has No Gender™ story and now I want to hear your’s! Please share your own story in the comments below and for more inspiring stories from real life women, click here and watch the video below!