9 months ago

March 2018


KITCHEN CONFESSIONS Trendsetting WHY ARE WOMEN CHEFS --- INSTEAD OF SIMPLY CHEFS --- STILL A THING? BY LESLIE BILDERBACK Iwas thumbing through the Los Angeles Times a couple weeks ago when I came across Jonathan Gold’s article listing the top food trends of 2018. My heart immediately sank. The number one trend of the year is women in the kitchen. This is possibly the worst timing ever. After a 30-year career I get trendy just as I am transitioning out of the job. But being a chef is like being a parent — you may not be actively participating in the work, but you still get the title. So I have no qualms about expounding on just how insulted I am to be called a “trend.” Calling something a trend is pinpointing a general direction in which change is happening. Jeez Louise! It is my understanding that women have literally been cooking for crowds since the Paleolithic epoch. But I see where you are going with this. Women becoming famous and important chefs is trending. Except, wait! To illustrate the point, the article used photos of chefs who have been around as long as I have, like La Brea Bakery’s Nancy Silverton. You know what else is a trend? These newfangled horseless carriages I keep 44 | ARROYO | 03.18

seeing around town. I would argue that trendy is not a thing we want a career to be. Calling something a trend is indicating it is fashionable. I do not relish the idea of people making career decisions based on this. Have we learned nothing from history? When food television hit big, culinary schools trended and the industry was flooded. Most of those poor career fashionistas weren’t cut out for the job and are either back at their desk at the insurance company, or suing the culinary school for false promises. Those who stuck it out are not trending. They are talented. Remember what else was trendy? Legwarmers. Rainbow bagels. Crystal Pepsi. But more to the point, can we please stop making gender a thing? I have been fighting against being labeled a female chef my entire career. (See Arroyo, February 2016 and January 2015 at The label puts women at a disadvantage right away. It is tantamount to saying we are “pretty good, for a girl.” Even before we enter this career we are being judged for how we look, how fat we are, how thin we are, whether we are mothers or not mothers, whether we are ambitious or not ambitious enough, or too old, or too young and on and on. It is hard enough to defend one’s work without also having to defend our bodies. To be fair, Gold is not the only offender — far from it. A recent Zagat article listed “15 Badass Female Chefs and Restaurateurs You Need to Know Around the U.S.” The same “It is hard enough to defend one’s work without also having to defend our bodies.” article would’ve been completely on point if they had left off the word “female.” Sure, it was a list of great culinary artists. But why-oh-why is being a woman still noteworthy? “Isn’t that cute! She can run a restaurant and have boobs!” Paul Bocuse, who just passed away, famously said, “I’d rather have women in my bed than at the stove.” And if you saw the crowd of 1,500 mostly male chefs at his funeral in a Lyon cathedral you’ll see that many shared his opinion. That is the attitude chefs of my generation have fought to overcome. But when you point out that being a female chef is remarkable, you are also signaling that it is in some way surprising, and that sets us back decades. Isn’t it time to simply talk about the food, and not the fact that some of us have ovaries? Perhaps what you meant by your well-intentioned list was to point out that we should be paying more attention to the females of our industry. Like the film industry did with the pro-diversity hashtag #oscarsowhite. If that is the case, may I humbly request that, instead of belittling our contributions as a fleeting fancy, you advocate for pay equity, safe workplaces and decent benefits. Let’s make that a trend --- #chefsdeservebetter. Also on the list of trends was “Fire.” If this is the kind of industry insight that constitutes award-winning journalism, let me add that I’ve heard water can be put into a freezer to get hard. Boom! I’m a trendsetter. |||| Leslie Bilderback is a chef and cookbook author, a certified master baker and an art history instructor. She lives in South Pasadena and teaches her techniques online at INGREDIENTS 1 slice serrano pepper wheel 3 blackberries 2 leaves basil ½ ounce fresh lemon juice THE DEVIL’S GATE METHOD Muddle ingredients together. Shake, strain into glass with ice. Top with 2 ounces club soda. Lemon Grass Syrup 3½ ounces chopped lemongrass 4 cups water 4 cups sugar THE DEVIL’S GATE STORY AND PHOTO BY MICHAEL CERVIN When The Flintridge Proper opened five years ago in La Cañada Flintridge, everyone wondered how this restaurant and bar could boast the world’s largest selection of gin served in a bar. Because that’s what owner Brady Caverly wanted, that’s how. The bar is ideal for quiet conversation — with its comfortable armchairs and couches, it feels and looks more a library than a neighborhood tavern. The custom wooden bar with carved horse heads recalls the area’s equestrian past. Devil’s Gate Dam inspired this drink, a nod to a time when boats could float languidly on the Pasadena reservoir. “It’s designed to capture the flavor of the Arroyo — berries and wild herbs and serrano peppers — to scare the devil out of you,” says Caverly. It combines sweet and spicy, tempered by citrus and fruit, with a potent heat from both the ginger and pepper. The soda’s slight fizz brightens the palate. Pair this with their fresh oysters on the half shell or short-rib pot roast. |||| ½ ounce fresh lime juice 3/4 oz. lemongrass syrup (see below) 3/4 oz. ginger syrup (see below) 2 oz. Tanqueray Gin Add chopped lemongrass and sugar to 4 cups water. Bring to boil on stove, remove and let cool. Strain out lemongrass. Ginger Syrup Combine two parts each ginger juice and sugar to one part water. Blend until sugar is dissolved. 03.18 | ARROYO | 45