Gastronomy is feminine: "We don't need quotas, we have to normalize the role of women to end the equality speech"

The third edition of 'Gastronomy is feminine' has focused on the role of women in the gastronomic story, understood in its broadest sense. Because gastronomy is part of the Spanish cultural identity and also a basic pillar of its economy, and thousands of women from all walks of life contribute to it, from chefs and sommeliers to communication, marketing, tourism, agriculture or industry workers.

Organized by Women in Equality and the Federation of Associations of Cooks and Bakers of Spain (Facyre), the meeting has been conceived as a sharing of ideas and knowledge, giving voice and visibility to women in a world that has traditionally always remained in the background. The situation is changing, but how is female empowerment reflected in gastronomy? What are the keys to achieving real equality?

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The kitchen at home has always been linked to the figure of women, and it is still difficult to overcome that cliché today. If they have been the women who have carried the family's food on their shoulders and also from the people in the most difficult times, pouting where there was nothing, why in the history of gastronomy only male protagonists arrive?

Betting on equality policies is investing in the welfare state

It is irremediable to think about the sacrosanct Michelin Guide and the small number of female figures that appear leading restaurants. The picture is changing little by little, but there is still a chasm in terms of equality and many challenges to overcome. The numbers do not deceive, men continue to make headlines, awards, stars and media recognition, while the woman who triumphs cooking is still seen as an anecdote.

This approach has started this third edition of a forum that increasingly seeks to expand female voices to reflect on the whole discourse of gastronomy, understood as a global phenomenon. Carmen Fúnez, president of Women in Equality, highlighted the importance of the gastronomic sector in our country, as past, present and future, a future that will be unfeasible without investing in equality policies.

There are many women who promote hospitality, tourism, agriculture, fishing or the food industry; and only in an egalitarian environment can progress be made towards a competent future that guarantees the welfare state. And for that you have to normalize female presence and professionalization in all fields.

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Neither quotas nor positive discrimination: break with inherited tradition

Sara Fort (La Borda del Mentidero), Yolanda León (Cocinandos restaurant), Teresa Gutiérrez (Azafrán restaurant), María Salinas (María Salinas restaurant) and Cristina de la Calle (Etxeko restaurant)

In the current social context, it is common for women to be asked to succeed because they are still the exception. It's hard to explain why there are still so few Michelin stars with a female name, says Teresa Gutierrez, chef and owner of the Azafrán de Villarrobledo restaurant. The answer may be, in part, in the past, "before the woman stayed behind in everything", everyone expected them to take care of cooking, picking and cleaning.

Teresa Gutiérrez, Azafrán de Villarrobledo restaurant

Yolanda León, chef and co-owner of Cocinandos, Leon's restaurant with whom she has obtained a Michelin star with her husband Juanjo Pérez, differs a little. "It is not so much a problem of tradition but of education that we have been given as women and family obligations." Reconciliation is the key, the support of the couple and the family, does not presuppose that a woman is first a mother or a wife.

"We can be there because we are worth, we don't need fees"

When mentioning parity quotas or positive discrimination policies, chefs have it quite clear: they only contribute to further exclusion. Cristina de la Calle, sommelier of the Etxeko restaurant in Madrid, defends that the woman is well prepared to assume positions of responsibility - Leading a company does not differ much from running a home - but you must dare to take the plunge.

Maria Salinas, chef and owner of the homonymous restaurant in Palma de Mallorca, which she has with her daughter agrees with these ideas. Important advances have been made but "there is still much to be done." However, Salinas believes that the objective should be to break with the discourses of equality, not separate or discriminate. Only when the role of women is fully normalized, we will have achieved that equality.

Yolanda León and Juanjo Pérez, from the Cocinandos de León restaurant

To achieve that normalization, says de la Calle, it is also essential bet on professionalization that empowers women with all the necessary tools to assert themselves. "It is necessary to demand to the sector professionals trained in hospitality schools with homologated titles that contribute that necessary visibility".

And the generational renewal It will also be key. Only through an education that normalizes and assumes equality can we overcome the gender gap.

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Female voices find new ways of communication

The world of professional cuisine is just one piece of all the gear that shapes the gastronomic sector in our country. The arrival of the internet and the emergence of social networks have opened new avenues for communication, a democratization that women have taken advantage of.

María Llanos and Mapi Hermida with the presenter Mónica Martínez

Already the role of gastronomic criticism does not fall solely on the five male names of always; digital media, blogs and social networks have given the opportunity to new voices, many feminine, to participate in the story and offer their point of view, sharing experiences and knowledge. This is seen by Mapi Hermida, director of communication and journalist, who believes that women "in networks we take more voice and initiative, we interact more."

Our partner María Llanos, Editorial Director of Direct to the Palate, with a long experience in communication of the sector, highlights that women have made their way into the culinary scene thus achieving alternative visibility, looking for their own ways of expression. In social networks such as Instagram, there seems to be a greater presence of women who also connect more with the visual aspect, taking more care of the aesthetic.

Digital media have democratized voices in gastronomy

In this way, the new media do seem to be giving women that visibility that costs more in professional haute cuisine. And the role of television? In addition to having turned the kitchen into a popular phenomenon, the chains try to take care of parity in a certain way, although that female presence "is not proportional, does not reflect everyday reality," says Llanos.

And precisely concludes that the media, traditional or digital, we have the responsibility to highlight the presence of women and attract the attention of the public. Communication professionals should assume fees to pay the same attention to men and women.

"We have to keep an eye out and tell all kinds of stories that deserve to be told, great stories and small intrahistories, starring famous chefs or anonymous women."

Photos | Unsplash Saffron Restaurant