Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition
Oral Presentation Session
What is the gendered nature of culinary training and apprenticeship, and what are the ways in which notions of craft have continued to reproduce male dominance in culinary training programs and the workplace? A glimpse at historical structures and practices will lay the groundwork for understanding the current state of affairs.
Historically, men engaged in formal training and apprenticeship and participated in companionage (traveling to work with masters in their field). During the early twentieth century, manuals of French cuisine, such as Auguste Escoffier’s Le guide to culinaire (1903) began to codified training practices and the organization of the professional kitchen to mirror that of the military brigade, a deeply patriarchal structure. In contrast, women learned to cook in the domestic sphere and passed along their knowledge through oral tradition. Women’s work was not seen as professional or as craft--women’s cooking was tied to unpaid domestic labor that fed families in the home each day. This paper will argue that women’s presence in professional French kitchens was seen as a threat to professionalization.
Women were finally admitted to professional certification programs but, despite current record enrollment of women, their participation in culinary professions lags behind. Ethnographic interviews and oral histories reveal that the patriarchal structures and stereotypes of training and apprenticeship created unfavorable conditions for women in kitchens. It is this legacy of exclusion and bias that women continue to resist as they seek to redefine the craft of professional cooking as inclusive of both men and women.