Sara Moulton Explains Why the Restaurant Industry Needs More Women Chefs
In a candid new essay for the Huffington Post, Sara Moulton, a former contributor to Good Morning America, the Food Network, and Gourmet magazine; long time food consultant for Julia Child & More Company, and cookbook author, demands that the restaurant industry open the door for more women chefs, and reaffirms that now is the moment to listen to stories of workplace misconduct that have plagued kitchens for so long. She also details an incident during her time working under the French chef Maurice Cazalis as a young woman, in which Cazalis allegedly sexually harassed her on a trip to Paris.
Moulton opens her essay with a blunt confession: She’s “just so tired,” of the restaurant industry’s “boy’s club” mentality. Moulton has been working in kitchens long enough to know just how rampant that atmosphere has become in her industry; she started her career at the Culinary Institute of America, which she attended from 1975 to 1977, then worked as a food stylist for Julia Child & More Company, before moving to France to work as an apprentice under Maurice Cazalis at his restaurant in Chartres, France.
Moulton had no desire to move to France for the job because she had “already been tortured in cooking school by these European men who thought women had no place in the kitchen.” At CIA, for instance, she felt that her instructors created an environment hostile to women, insisting that, “…They’re too weak, they can’t stand the heat, they can’t stand the pressure, they can’t lift the pots.”
Once she got to France, Cazalis wouldn’t let her work the line, but did have her doing prep for each station. She was the only woman working as an apprentice at his restaurant. Eventually, Cazalis invited her on a trip to Paris, to visit the Palais de l’Élysée. According to Moulton, the chef tried to put his hand on her thigh, and insisted they share a hotel room, but luckily, went no further than that.
These days, Moulton belives that things have improved for women working in the restaurant industry but they aren’t as good as they could be. She thinks that many women are too accustomed to the idea that “that’s just what happens in kitchens,” and are often afraid to speak up because if “you start to say that something isn’t acceptable — even if it really isn’t acceptable ― suddenly you can be accused of not acting like a member of the team.”
Moulton decries that the fact that “for a long time,” people didn’t see women in kitchens because “that door was shut,” by chefs who didn’t think women were capable of becoming professional chefs. These days, the demographics may have changed, but Moulton believes that “…Female chefs still don’t get the same benefits as male chefs. They don’t get the same publicity, the same real estate proposals, or the same backers as male chefs and the male chefs prefer to keep it that way.”
She also calls out the men (and sometimes women as well) who may not be abusers themselves but who enable that behavior by seeing it but refusing to report it.
“This has to end. I don’t have a neat and tidy happy answer to any of this but I do know that if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem,” she says. “This is not how humans treat other humans.”