Food and feminism

Rhubarb MR

When I look back on my years in the kitchen I can see things have changed. I started cooking mostly in the company of men, mostly brilliant ones with a couple of real jerks thrown in. Cooking in kitchen required me to bring some 'lad' to work, to smile at the over-the-line jokes and to listen to the banter.

Kitchens back then seemed to have a very male energy and I definitely had to dig deep into my alpha side at times to compete. I was lucky though to work with men who got that cooking well was about the balance between feminine and masculine, that the real power of how we eat lies in nurture, so a special shout out to Jamie Oliver, Gennaro Contaldo and Steve Pooley for that.

The landscape in food has changed now, 14 years on. Kitchens (Hallelujah) now have more women in them, some are predominantly staffed by women and to work in a kitchen you no longer need to play the alpha games unless you want to. I work with almost entirely women most days and I wouldn't want it any other way. But I don't for a second think that my bubble of London food is the reality.

There is still so much work to be done. The top Michelin kitchens are still mostly headed up by men, some kitchens still run on adrenaline and machismo. I find this so upside down - how did food, feeding, nurturing - one of the most feminine (and by this I don't mean it need to be done by women, some of the greatest feminine nurturing cooks I know have been men) pursuits can be turned in its highest from into something with such masculine energy.

Thursday 8th March is International Women's day and while some of you might be sick of hearing about yet another women's event, we need to bang this drum, shout from the rooftops until every woman in every city, in every county, in every country in this world has access to exactly the same things as her male counterparts.

Image: Matt Russell - my recipe for Rhubarb and Potato Tray Bake can be found here on The Guardian.

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