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We all have a role to celebrate the women of our industry: whether they're at the top of their game, at the beginning of their journey or well on their way to achieving their career goals.

The potential of any passionate chef is limitless and should never be constrained by gender or the sector they work within.

Many female chefs have traditionally filled roles in sectors offering greater flexibility, such as education and healthcare; often a consequence of the need to balance child and home commitments. The challenge is that these roles often have limited progression opportunities and tend to be seen separately to other chef roles.

We are so proud of the rise in female chefs helping to raise the profile of women in their respective sectors, but there is a long way to go before we see anything like gender equality across the industry.

As a culinary community we should take advantage of days like International Women's Day and the wider discussion of gender equality in order to actively empower women to have the confidence to create more, be better, go further.

With Knorr Professional You Can.

Read stories from celebrated female chefs below.

Chef Ruth Hansom

Name:

Ruth Hansom

Age:

23 years

Job title:

Head Chef

How you got there:

I first entered the hospitality industry through a competition, Future Chef for under 16s ran by Springboard. I fell in love with it at the National Final and decided it’s what I wanted to do. So I went back home to north England, finished my GCSEs, applied for Westminster Kingsway and found a flat on gumtree! I moved to London a few weeks later and never looked back. 

I spent a year working with Frederick Forster at Boundary in Shoreditch before moving on to complete the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts diploma with a distinction while working at The Ritz, London. I continued to work at The Ritz, all in all nearly 5 years. During this time I competed in numerous competitions including becoming the first female to win Young National Chef of the Year. While there I met a great friend, and the Ritz London's first ever female sommelier, Emily Lambert. We had a crazy idea that turned into a business plan for an entirely British dining experience. We competed on BBC2's million pound menu in 2017 and won £1m restaurant investment. This is currently on hold while we both explore and learn our fields more.

 

02:35

Biggest issue for women in our trade right now:

The biggest issue is stigma. We are seen as the weaker sex, not able to carry pans, follow out strenuous tasks or cope with the banter! But our society has built strong women, ones with ambitions and much thicker skin and so the attitude needs to change too! Whilst this doesn’t apply to me personally, I know a lot of women who may look to have a family in the near future that may struggle to find a job that truly satisfies them. 

Your advice for others who want to achieve what you have:

Don’t see yourself as a female chef. You’re a Chef, you want to be the best version of yourself so don’t limit what you can do based on what people tell you. Work hard, ask questions and never stop learning. 

Name: 

Audrey Crone

Age:

47 years

Job title:

Executive Chef, Ireland, Unilever Food Solutions

Career to date:

  • May 2018 – Present: Executive Chef, Ireland, Unilever Food Solutions
  • October 2008 to May 2018: Executive Development Chef, Baxter Storey Ireland.
  • July 2005 – October 2008: Executive Chef/ Manager, Eurest Catering,
  • February 2004 – June 2005: Executive Sous Chef, City West Hotel and Golf Resort, Dublin
  • February 1999 – January 2004: Sous Chef, City West Hotel and Golf Resort, Dublin
  • 1992 - 1998: Various chef roles

How you got there:

I didn’t really know what I wanted to be growing up, I couldn’t sit easy at school and was always in trouble for ‘fidgeting’ and I just knew there was no way I could sit at a desk all day. At 16 my parents weren’t too pleased with my career choice, particularly my Dad. He felt it was too hard a ‘job’ for ‘his little girl’ so in an effort to get me to change my mind and do something sensible, they encouraged me to get a part-time job in a kitchen. Unemployment in Ireland in the 80’s was high, so finding part-time work wasn’t easy. Eventually I found some voluntary work one day a week in a local hospital kitchen. I loved it, the buzz. It was so busy, they were surprised when I came in at Christmas unpaid. I fell in love.

I would say that a combination of the right skills-based training and mentoring from my head chefs were the stepping stones to my position today. In particular, Derek Mc Loughlin, Executive Chef at City West Hotel. He taught me about real food and inspired my passion, encouraging us all to participate in competitions to challenge ourselves.

Biggest issue for women in our trade right now:

Why should we as women be treated differently, we are Chefs and equality is about being equal. The issues with this industry are not localised to women, we should work towards making things better for all chefs. 

What, if any, experiences of sexism in the workplace have you encountered?

I put pressure on myself to work  longer, harder and never to be seen ‘weaker’ than the other sex. I put myself in a tough environment and it was my passion that fuelled me to be the best I could. It’s tough and not just for women. We should be supporting everyone.    

Your advice to other women that want to achieve what you have:

Every female chef needs to find the environment right for them – in this industry, no one should have to sacrifice themselves, their passion or love for food. Work hard, believe in yourself, learn from all around you every day and put it into practice. The greatest obstacle is yourself, you can do whatever you want if you work hard and believe in yourself.

As for the role of female chefs in the future, one of the phrases I live by and share on to all chefs, irrespective of gender, is to remind them that ‘somebody once believed in you, gave you the time, patience and trained you well. They monitored your progress and you now have a responsibility to pass it on’. I think we should all take heed of this and work harder to share, learn from and develop our culinary community, male and female.