12 Women on Food & Wine's "Best New Chefs" List… Since 2007

photo credit: Jay Wennington

photo credit: Jay Wennington

Food & Wine published its list “Best New Chefs 2016” on April 4th. They are, according to Food & Wine:

…brilliant…
“…up and coming…

…and 9 out of 10 of those best new chefs are men.

This is not an aberration. In the last 10 “Best New Chefs” lists, Food & Wine never included more than 20% women chefs. 2008, 2012, and 2015 were the only years where more than one woman appeared on the list.

  • 2015: 2 women, 9 men  
  • 2014: 1 woman, 11 men

  • 2013: 1 woman, 11 men

  • 2012: 2 women, 10 men

  • 2011: 1 woman, 10 men

  • 2010: 1 woman, 9 men
  • 2009: 1 woman, 10 men

  • 2008: 2 women, 8 men

  • 2007: 1 woman, 9 men

 

Since 2007, Food & Wine has included only 12 women in its roster of best new chefs, compared to 87 men.

The ongoing lack of women on this important list provides a great example of how acknowledging a problem is not the same thing as fixing it.

In 2010, Food & Wine editor Dana Cowin recognized the lack of women on its Best New Chefs list and ended the interview with “…there's a lot of up and coming female talent, too. We look forward to recognizing them in the future!” Six years have passed, and nothing has changed.

In a 2015 interview with PopMatters, Cowin said:

Women are underrepresented in media in the upper echelons of the cooking world. I think that in the food world there are a lot of talented women who are doing inspiring work. There are many women who are chefs, there are also women who are artisans, sommeliers, winemakers. One of the things that’s very important is to ensure that the women who are talented are seen and heard.

Food & Wine made sure women were in the spotlight in January 2015 with a woman-themed edition of the magazine, a “Top 25 Most Innovative Women in Food & Drink” list, and a special hashtag: #foodwinewomen.

A special slew of women-themed content rings hollow when women routinely make up less than 20% of the chefs on the magazine’s most lauded list. If you have the energy to round up lots of women for special lists and magazines, wouldn’t that energy be better spent finding more women who are the best new chefs that year? Isn’t it tiring to create the same problem and face the same criticism year after year?

To quote GenderAvenger Founder Gina Glantz:

Let’s face it. Something tagged exclusively for or about women is all too often a revenue generating strategy alongside a way to deflect criticism about the lack of attention to women and an opportunity for the powers-that-be to say, “look what we do for women.” Unfortunately, often, what they “do” is not much.

Good intentions are not good enough. Action is required. Food & Wine has the connections and resources to create more gender balance in its annual list of the best new chefs. Innovative women chefs are out there. They don’t need to be siloed into “Best Women” lists. They’ll do just fine in the “Best New Chef” list.