The number of women enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America increases every year, and the ranks of successful female chefs is also growing. But the gains haven’t been without hardship, discrimination or room for improvement. Whether it’s the impossibly long work days or gender discrimination, few women are at the helm of professional galleys. We speak with women in the industry about what it takes to make it in a predominantly male culinary world.

Guests

  • Charlotte Druckman Food Writer; Author, "Skirt Steak: Women Chefs on Standing the Heat and Staying in the Kitchen." (Chronicle Books, 2012)
  • Diana Davila-Boldin Executive Chef, Jackie's Restaurant (Silver Spring, Md.)
  • Ann Cashion Chef, Co-Owner, Johnny's Half Shell

Transcript

  • 12:08:21

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. It's Food Wednesday. Chef, it's really a French masculine word, meaning chief, but there's no feminine form of the word, like C-H-E-F-F-E, for women. And the restaurant business is still by and large a man's world. In 1980, women made up 21 percent of the student body at the Culinary Institute of America.

  • 12:09:04

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIThis year, women have finally reached an almost equal slice of the pie at 45 percent female enrollment, and the number of successful female chefs working in Washington, D.C. is also on the rise. But such progress hasn't come without hardship and discrimination or 12-hour workdays, six days a week or even the occasional kitchen knife fight among hooligan line cooks who aren't taking their female superior seriously, which is why, today, we're exploring what it takes to cut it in the restaurant world with a group of women who are breaking down barriers and challenging the status quo.

  • 12:09:42

    MR. KOJO NNAMDICharlotte Druckman is a food writer and author. Her most recent book is titled "Skirt Steak: Women Chefs on Standing the Heat and Staying in the Kitchen." Charlotte Druckman, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:09:54

    MS. CHARLOTTE DRUCKMANThanks for having me.

  • 12:09:55

    NNAMDIAlso in studio with us is Ann Cashion, chef and co-owner at Johnny's Half Shell in Washington, D.C. Ann Cashion, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:10:04

    MS. ANN CASHIONIt's great to be here. Thanks, Kojo.

  • 12:10:05

    NNAMDIAnd Diana Davila-Boldin is the executive chef at Jackie's Restaurant in Silver Spring, Md. Diana, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:10:13

    MS. DIANA DAVILA-BOLDINThanks for having me.

  • 12:10:14

    NNAMDIYou, too, can join this conversation at 800-433-8850. You can send email to kojo@wamu.org. Why do you cook because you love it or because you have to? You can also send us a tweet, @kojoshow, or simply go to our website, kojoshow.org, and join the conversation there. Charlotte, in the very first chapter of your book, you discussed the implications of the word chef according to the female chefs you met in your travels. And it seems as though the word is not as simple as it sounds. What is the key difference between chef and cook?

  • 12:10:50

    DRUCKMANIf you're looking at it in the very traditional sense of the word, which is in that French sense based on the brigade system of the galley kitchen where there's a hierarchy established, the chef is the chief or head of that brigade, of that line of cooks. So you can think of it as, you know, a small little barrack of professional cooks, each of whom has a place in the line and the task that they work on.

  • 12:11:19

    DRUCKMANAnd you work your way up that line, mastering each task until maybe one day you've become the leader of that group of cooks. So the chef is, you know, the head of the cooks in that space in the restaurant kitchen. If you want to look at it in a much broader sense, it gets a lot more complicated.

  • 12:11:42

    NNAMDII want to look at it in a much broader sense because it seems to me that there are those who feel that the term cook should be upgraded.

  • 12:11:49

    DRUCKMANYes. Or there are people who are home cooks who think they should be called chefs. In which case, you could say they are at the same time downgrading the word cook in a way by taking the word chef down along with it. The problem seems to be that those people who are on the fast track or what they imagine to be the fast track to be successful in the professional culinary industry think that you can become a chef overnight.

  • 12:12:24

    DRUCKMANAnd I don't think they appreciate this idea that there is a certain nobility in being a professional cook and actually mastering the craft so that then you get to that place where you can be proud to hold the title of chef. They kind of think maybe you graduate from culinary school and you become a chef instantly as soon as you get your first job in a restaurant, or their ambitions are maybe based more on owning a restaurant or being on television. And again, they kind of affixed that idea to the word chef, and they're skipping all of the steps that would be required in between.

  • 12:13:01

    NNAMDIYes. Because one can read in some of the footnotes to your book that there are those who feel that people should make an effort to restore the dignity that used to and should be ascribed to the term cook.

  • 12:13:12

    DRUCKMANYeah.

  • 12:13:13

    NNAMDIBecause, by emphasizing chef, we seem to be downgrading cook.

  • 12:13:17

    DRUCKMANExactly.

  • 12:13:18

    NNAMDINot a good idea. Ann, what does the word chef mean to you?

  • 12:13:23

    CASHIONI take it as a title, and it does mean -- to me, it implies leadership. It implies the person who is setting the agenda, who is providing the vision, who solves the problems, who is the person where the buck stops. Yeah, I think of it in -- I think chief is, you know, a great American translation in that sense, so, yeah. And I want to make a plug for the word cook because I personally believe that I was, in some ways, a chef and a very competent one before I became the cook that I wanted to be.

  • 12:14:16

    CASHIONAnd my aspirations really had to do with becoming somebody who really knew how to cook well, and that's what keeps me in the profession. Yeah, for various reasons, partially because I didn't have access to a traditional hierarchical kitchen and because I was smart and I was motivated, I got sort of promoted almost too quickly, I think, for my own good. And I was in charge of kitchens.

  • 12:14:50

    CASHIONThey were not my own. I was very good at developing the menus and training the staff and, yes, even cooking on the line. But I wasn't cooking sort of from the interior me in a way that, I think, is important if you're going to become a really great cook. And so it was finally, ironically, when I opened my own restaurant that I got back to the business of becoming a great cook, and I think that's what I treasure. And that's what I'm most proud of.

  • 12:15:19

    NNAMDIDiana Davila-Boldin, your own definition of what a chef is.

  • 12:15:25

    DAVILA-BOLDINI think I would agree with Ann that -- a leader. I think it's definitely a leader, a chief that you need in the kitchen.

  • 12:15:39

    NNAMDIHow did you become a chef? Tell us how you came up, so to speak.

  • 12:15:43

    DAVILA-BOLDINWell, being a cook. I -- my family had taquerias, and I grew up with, after school, going to the restaurant. And I just thought that the cooks were the coolest people ever. And I wanted to be like them, but I never really thought that it was -- at that time, I never -- it wasn't nowhere near the way it is now, that it's this prestigious kind of profession where, you know, you wear these pristine whites and you're on television.

  • 12:16:14

    DAVILA-BOLDINIt was -- there was no glamour to it then. And just the pressure in high school being like, OK, what are you going to do for the rest of your life? What are you going to do? I never thought that my parents would even think that that was something that was acceptable, like that's not a real job. You know, that's not a real job, to cook. Like, you're just saying that because you're in the restaurant.

  • 12:16:36

    DAVILA-BOLDINBut, to me, I have, like, a very vivid memory of when the pinpoint time that it was. Like, I would cook on Saturdays for all the cooks after going to the market with my dad, and I would cook them breakfast. And they would always -- they would expect it. It would be like, what are you going to make us? What are you going to make us? 'Cause I would kind of have this little grab-bag of things. And that day, I was making huevos motuleños, and I remember...

  • 12:17:04

    NNAMDIYou're making me hungry already. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:17:06

    DAVILA-BOLDINAnd I just remember it. Like, I feel like everything just stopped, and I was listening to, like, the five senses of cooking, you know, like the sound, the smell. And I'm like, I'm going to be a chef. Like, that's what I want to be. And I kept it to myself for a while 'cause, like I said, my parents would be like, that's not a real job. You need to be a doctor, a lawyer, you know, one of the, like -- one of those. But they ended up loving it, and they're like, it's perfect. I can't believe we didn't think about it before.

  • 12:17:34

    NNAMDIIt all came out well. Ann Cashion, talk about your experiences. How did -- what does one have to do? What are the most important qualities one has to have in order to make it in this profession? What were your own experiences?

  • 12:17:49

    CASHIONI think you have to be very, very determined. I think it is not easy. Nothing is really a given, and there are so many, I think, different ways of entering the industry, of developing within the industry, especially -- you know, it was 34 years ago that I made a decision to do this full-time and to make my living doing it. A lot has changed since then, and I can very much relate to Diana saying that, you know, it wasn't considered a career option, certainly...

  • 12:18:28

    NNAMDIEspecially among women.

  • 12:18:29

    CASHION...not for a woman, certainly not for a woman like me whose family had invested in very expensive college education. And I was actually in a Ph.D. program when I bolted...

  • 12:18:42

    CASHION...and started cooking. And I didn't -- I mean, of course, I had a lot of confidence in my abilities, just sort of as a person, but I had no idea how I was going to get where I wanted to go in this career. And I literally started with zero experience, making $3.75 an hour.

  • 12:19:05

    NNAMDIWhat made you want to follow this muse, so to speak?

  • 12:19:09

    CASHIONWell, I think sometimes, I think, it's like a religious vocation. I mean, that sometimes that's the only way I can explain it, but I do have to say this. There were factors that were present both in my life and in where I was. I was at Stanford. I was in the Bay Area. There was a lot of interest in food. Chez Panisse was probably, what, four or five years opened by that time.

  • 12:19:34

    NNAMDIMm hmm.

  • 12:19:35

    CASHIONLots of people were becoming professional cooks that, you know, were like me, that were basically refugees from higher education. And it is true that I had always been really fascinated with food and fascinated by restaurants. And compared to, you know, the sort of casting about for a thesis topic that I wasn't really interested in writing, the idea that I could spend all my time around food and learning about food and cooking and being with people who were doing the same thing was really appealing.

  • 12:20:13

    NNAMDIEven at $3.75 an hour.

  • 12:20:14

    CASHIONEven at $3.75 an hour.

  • 12:20:16

    NNAMDIAnd what has resulted now is Johnny's Half Shell in Washington, D.C., where I have certainly enjoyed many a meal. Ann Cashion is chef and owner at Johnny's Half Shell. She joins us in studio, along with Diana Davila-Boldin, the executive chef at Jackie's Restaurant in Silver Spring, Md., and Charlotte Druckman, food writer and author. Her most recent book is titled "Skirt Steak: Women Chefs on Standing the Heat and Staying in the Kitchen." They join us for a Food Wednesday conversation.

  • 12:20:44

    NNAMDIIf you've ever dreamed of becoming a professional chef or opening your own restaurant, give us a call. Why haven't you done so yet? 800-433-8850 or send email to kojo@wamu.org. Charlotte, you refer to yourself as a food writer, not a food critic. There's definitely, I guess, a stylistic difference between the two. But, besides that, what are the differences?

  • 12:21:08

    DRUCKMANWell, I always say that one of the key differences is that I get to write about things that I like.

  • 12:21:16

    DRUCKMANIf you're a critic, you have to write about things that you do and don't like. If I don't like something, I can just decide to ignore it. I mean, that sounds like a silly thing to say, but it just means that you are looking at the world of food from a different perspective. So I am really interested in food culture, but also I am food obsessed, you know, just a voracious eater who's really curious.

  • 12:21:44

    DRUCKMANI am most interested in the intersection of, I think, where pop culture and food meet and how maybe we can start to have conversations about more serious subject matter using food as the Trojan horse to have those kinds of conversations. And critics get to do things like that but in a different way. They are looking at the dining landscape. They are looking at the business of restaurants and maybe what that indicates about the way that we're eating or spending our money to dine.

  • 12:22:17

    DRUCKMANOr, yes, it's chef culture, but it's different in that your job, really, at the end of the day, if you're a critic, I think, aside from making that kind of commentary, is you're trying to help readers decide where to go for dinner. I don't necessarily have to do that, but I can sometimes do that. So I think food writing, it's a much broader term.

  • 12:22:38

    DRUCKMANUnfortunately, it can also -- this reminds me of the chef-cook thing. You say food writer. People can also assume that you're a food blogger. So then you get in that whole, do you have to say you're a food journalist? What does that mean? I don't know. I think anyone who writes about food professionally can probably say that he or she is a food writer.

  • 12:22:57

    NNAMDI800-433-8850 is the number to call. Are there any real differences, truly, between the way a man cooks and the way a woman cooks, Diana?

  • 12:23:09

    DAVILA-BOLDINI don't believe so. No.

  • 12:23:11

    NNAMDIWhat do you say, Ann Cashion?

  • 12:23:14

    CASHIONI think -- I do think there are differences, although it's not true in every case. I know and have worked with cooks, both at Johnny's and also at my previous restaurant, Cashion's Eat Place, who cook very like me.

  • 12:23:35

    NNAMDIMm hmm.

  • 12:23:38

    CASHIONNow, is that because they've worked under me? Not always. It's almost like, I think, that we connected and we worked together for so long because we did have a similar approach to food. So I don't think that you can just say, you know, men cook like this. Women cook like that. On the other hand, you know, Charlotte devotes a chapter in her book to the sort of enterprise of what's commonly known as molecular gastronomy. And I think it is very rare. I think you did find one person who's really into it. But I think, in general, women are not attracted to that type of manipulation of food.

  • 12:24:23

    NNAMDIWell, I don't know. But to be educated in culinary arts seems to mean that you have to experience this intensity of traditional kind of French machismo training. How does that dynamic, culinary classes, prepare a chef for the workplace, Diana?

  • 12:24:42

    DAVILA-BOLDINWell, I think...

  • 12:24:44

    NNAMDISounds like you're in battle sometimes.

  • 12:24:47

    DAVILA-BOLDINI don't know if it would be -- there's a couple places that I've worked at where they would be like, there's no sex in the kitchen. So, like, you're a girl. We don't care, you know. So, I mean, I've worked at a lot of different kitchens, and I think that -- I mean, I never viewed myself as being a woman chef. Like, I just knew I wanted to be a chef. And I usually was the only female in the kitchen, and you kind of even stop for even more so.

  • 12:25:20

    DAVILA-BOLDINLike, I really didn't view myself as a female for a long time because -- I mean, when you're -- and it's not that it's -- I think it's hard, but I think it's hard for any -- for -- in any -- if you're a woman, if you're, you know, if you don't speak the language, if you're, like -- everybody has to overcome something, you know. I just -- so I don't feel like I'm a feminist in that aspect at all. You know, I just knew I had to work harder. Whether I was a woman or whether -- it didn't matter.

  • 12:25:51

    DAVILA-BOLDINLike, it was just -- I had a goal, and my goal in every single place -- like, I really had a plan, like, work in one restaurant every year and just learn as much as I can, work with as many chefs as I respected and, like, choose where you want to work and, you know, knock on their doors and beg for them to take you in, you know.

  • 12:26:11

    NNAMDIIt just seems to me that what Diana is describing, Charlotte, is a lot similar to what people who happen to be African-American or people who happen to be Hispanic. What your parents tell you is that, look, you're going to be against odds anyway, so you just have to push as hard as you can. And so if that happens to be in a kind of male-dominated, machismo, competitive environment, that's the way you have to function, and you're just going to have to do it. Is that what tends to happen in culinary arts training?

  • 12:26:38

    DRUCKMANI think it tends to happen, yes. But, I mean, I think that there's the counterpoint, which is, who's to say that there's only one kind of training or one kind of restaurant in the first place? I mean, this idea that the only legitimate training you could have is if you go to this old-fashioned kind of culinary school or if you work in that typical French, you know, inherited male-dominated, chauvinist kitchen, if you think that, then probably you're going to see a whole, you know, series of effects of -- I don't want to use words like sexism.

  • 12:27:15

    DRUCKMANBut you're going to tend to see those kinds of extreme situations where any kind of other that you are is going to feel like you don't fit, is going to be pushed harder, is going to have to push yourselves harder. My question would just be, with all the different types of restaurants that exist out there now, all the different types of ways you can learn how to cook, even all the different kinds of chefs you can be, why does that still get held up as the example?

  • 12:27:42

    DRUCKMANSo, yes, I think that you should go into those kitchens and ignore it and just be -- you know, just have that drive. But maybe there are other kitchens to go to.

  • 12:27:52

    NNAMDIAnd I think Ann Cashion has been in a few of those other kitchens because she has never worked in a predominantly-male kitchen. So tell us about your experience in that regard.

  • 12:28:01

    CASHIONWell, it's true. I haven't. But one -- and I think that does make a difference. But the reason that I have not worked in a male-dominated kitchen was not for lack of trying. It was because I couldn't get a job. You have to remember that I am quite a bit older than Diana here, so things at the point where I was knocking on those doors, I mean, it was -- you know, somebody would sit there and let you make your pitch as to why, you know, you needed this job and how much you wanted it.

  • 12:28:37

    CASHIONAnd that was the end of it because they just were not going to hire you. So that's the main reason. But one thing I wanted to say about the sort of rigors of that system and the rigors of, say, a culinary training in a, you know, in a classic institute, I think one thing that's true -- and this is for men and women -- is that cooking is incredibly stressful. And I think that one of the advantages of passing through that is that you are trained to execute under pressure.

  • 12:29:13

    CASHIONAnd if you -- and you find out whether or not that's something that you, A, can do, B, you enjoy or are willing to put up with. And, yeah, I mean, it doesn't change, even if you're working in a predominantly-female kitchen. There is a ton of pressure in any kitchen because it's all about the time, the time that you have to get the meal prepared and to the customer. It's not a leisurely process. There's just a lot of chaos and rushing around.

  • 12:29:40

    NNAMDIGlad you brought that up because in broadcasting, it's also all about the time. And it's time for us to take a short break, so we can come back and talk a little bit more about our fall membership campaign. But after that, if you have called, stay on the line because we will resume our conversation about female chefs here in the Washington area. The number is 800-433-8850 for your questions or comments or you can send email to kojo@wamu.org. It's Food Wednesday. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:37:57

    NNAMDIWelcome back to our Food Wednesday conversation. We're talking "Skirt Steak" and female chefs with Charlotte Druckman. She's a food writer and author. Her most recent book is titled "Skirt Steak: Women Chefs on Standing the Heat and Staying in the Kitchen." Diana Davila-Boldin is the executive chef at Jackie's Restaurant in Silver Spring, Md. And Ann Cashion is chef and co-owner at Johnny's Half Shell in Washington, D.C.

  • 12:38:22

    NNAMDIWe encourage you to call 800-433-8850. And since you did and have been waiting for a while, we'll go directly to the phones. Please -- don your headphones, please, so you can hear the caller, who is Mary in Leesburg, Va. Mary, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:38:38

    MARYGood morning -- or good afternoon.

  • 12:38:40

    NNAMDII know you've been waiting a long time, Mary, but it is now afternoon. You're correct.

  • 12:38:44

    MARYIt is.

  • 12:38:45

    MARYNo problem at all. I wanted to say how timely your discussion is. I'm on my way to High Park, N.Y. to the Culinary Institute of America. My niece is graduating tomorrow.

  • 12:38:57

    NNAMDIOh, congratulations to your niece. Has your niece decided what she wants to specialize in?

  • 12:39:03

    MARYYes. She -- her degree will be in baking and pastry.

  • 12:39:07

    NNAMDII am so glad you brought that up, Mary, because female enrollment in the pastry division of the Culinary Institute of America climbs every year while that of men decreases. Both Ann and Diana started out on the pastry and baking side of things. As women -- Diana, you first -- did you find it easier to get your foot in the door that way?

  • 12:39:30

    MR. DIANA DAVILA-BOLDINNo. It's just -- I think, that's always where, I mean, I would say, classically, that's where you start in the kitchen, in garde manger and in pastry. So -- I mean, to me, I started in garde manger. And then when somebody, for whatever reason -- no call, no show, which that happens frequently in this field -- I had -- I mean, like I said, I just I wanted to soak everything up. I was a sponge.

  • 12:40:01

    DAVILA-BOLDINSo I had already kind of helped out in pastries, and then I started doing both. And I was kind of her pastry assistant and working, you know, the -- all the garde manger. So, I mean, that's how I started, and that's probably the first and the last time I actually got to execute pastries on that level. But it was really nice. I mean, that kind of -- I learned a lot from that that I still have. I still have those notepads.

  • 12:40:31

    NNAMDIAnn, your experience?

  • 12:40:33

    CASHIONYeah. Yes. My first job was actually in a bakery, that one at $3.75. And I have to say that it was all about getting my foot in the door. You have to imagine, you know, zero experience, coming out of a graduate program at Stanford and saying, you know, would you like to hire me? I had to find somebody who was pretty desperate. And this was a new bakery.

  • 12:40:58

    CASHIONThey were, you know, just getting staffed and having trouble staffing at the wages they were paying, for obvious reasons. So, yeah, it was my opportunity. And after that, I had the very first, you know, building block of a resume. So that was -- it was all about getting my foot in the door.

  • 12:41:15

    NNAMDIMary -- and hopefully it is your niece's opportunity, too -- anything else you'd like to say?

  • 12:41:20

    MARYYes. Actually, she does have a job already, so we'll -- you know, she's looking forward to that. Also, yes, I did want to say, I myself, I have a small catering business in Northern Virginia, and I've also taken classes up at the CIA. And it just struck me. A number of us had sat one time and had a discussion between the terminology chef and cook. And I took the -- one of the classes I took was the art and science of cooking.

  • 12:41:53

    MARYAnd as the chef handed out our certificate, he said, this is the class that makes the difference between a chef and a cook. And that just kind of struck me, you know, as kind of odd, and that kind of muddied the waters for me. And also, I may muddy the waters a little further. Where does the term of personal chef fit in also?

  • 12:42:18

    NNAMDICharlotte?

  • 12:42:20

    DRUCKMANWell, I focus in the book on restaurant chefs just because I think it's easier if you are looking for some kind of a controlled variable. If you're trying to talk about gender, it gets very difficult if you have so many different contexts for professional cooking. A personal chef is someone who is not working in a restaurant. They are cooking for individuals. Sometimes they are -- it can be a personal chef for a corporation, for a family. I think there's some overlap, in a way, between catering and being a personal chef.

  • 12:42:58

    DRUCKMANIf you're sort of a freelance personal chef, I think that that kind of -- or closer to the catering side, I think that it is a term that is understood within the framework of discussing culinary profession. So I think when you say personal chef, it's understood what that means. But I think it is a very different thing from being a chef in a restaurant. And it's not to say you can't do both and have both experiences, but when you are a restaurant chef, that is a very different thing from being a personal chef and vice versa.

  • 12:43:33

    NNAMDIHey, Mary, thank you very much for your call, and good luck to your niece. Ann and Diana, talk a little bit about some of the challenges. What are the major challenges you have faced when trying to manage a kitchen, starting with you, Ann Cashion?

  • 12:43:46

    CASHIONMm hmm. Well, I -- that little anecdote that you made mention of in your introduction with the -- about the knife fight in the kitchen, that...

  • 12:43:58

    NNAMDICan't wait to hear that story.

  • 12:44:01

    CASHIONThat was in my kitchen. Yeah. I think, in the beginning, I mean, that was my first time to be in charge of a restaurant kitchen. And I think that I was making lots of mistakes. I was kind of reluctant to impose myself. I also, because I was an unknown quantity, I also was in that same position that the woman who hired me for my first job was in in that I was having trouble getting staff. And I had a very sort of rough-and-tumble crew of all guys in my kitchen. And, yes, one night, one of them winged a plate of nachos that almost hit the head of the other one, and a knife fight broke out.

  • 12:44:54

    NNAMDIWas he throwing the plate of nachos in order to hit the head of the other?

  • 12:44:57

    CASHIONAbsolutely. Nachos as weapon. And it was absolutely terrifying, and, you know, people -- I mean, basically, it was like being on the street when an incident happens. People were jumping and trying to separate them. They...

  • 12:45:14

    NNAMDIWho had the knife, one of them or both?

  • 12:45:16

    CASHIONWell, everybody in the kitchen has a knife. I mean, that's one of the scary things.

  • 12:45:22

    NNAMDIThis is true.

  • 12:45:23

    CASHIONSo, yeah, obviously, that ended in a double firing, which, again, sort of exacerbated the problem of hiring that I was already having, but there you have it. I think, over time, you get much better at hiring, and I think you get a lot better at sort of setting a tone. I think one thing I wasn't doing is that I was allowing sort of the chaos of an opening, because this was a restaurant that was just opening, to sort of set the tone instead of me setting the tone.

  • 12:45:57

    CASHIONAnd I just think it takes experience, probably more confidence than I had at that moment and, yeah, sort of learning to ferret out who may be loose cannon or trouble before you actually say, OK, come and work for me.

  • 12:46:15

    NNAMDIPart of a learning experience. What was yours, Diana? First kitchen you walked into.

  • 12:46:22

    DAVILA-BOLDINFirst kitchen I walked into, I was definitely -- well, first professional kitchen that was not my parents' kitchen.

  • 12:46:29

    NNAMDICorrect. Correct.

  • 12:46:32

    DAVILA-BOLDINYes. I was totally intimidated because I had actually gone out. I've -- I had been there to eat, and I thought the world of this kitchen. And going in there, I didn't even know what a serrated knife -- like, oh, what's that knife called, serrated, and being proud that I knew that, you know. But, for me, it was a little bit different because I always started -- you know, I always started as a cook and kind of worked my way up.

  • 12:47:03

    DAVILA-BOLDINBut working your way up, that was hard as well. I mean, it was good. Fortunately, I've always worked with chefs that it didn't matter what anybody's background was. I mean, they just wanted people who were shining stars kind of thing. Like, yeah, you could take more? Good, good. And they'll move you up, and that was always really good for me. However, the rest of the kitchen would not like that.

  • 12:47:26

    DAVILA-BOLDINThere was a couple times -- one time that I'm always going to remember is that every -- they promoted me to fish and demoted the fish guy to garde manger. And, well, everybody was very disappointed about that, and everybody stopped talking to me for, like, two months. So, yeah, nobody would talk to me. I'm like, fine, I don't need you guys as friends, but you're going to do what I tell you to do.

  • 12:47:54

    DAVILA-BOLDINSo, I mean, working your way up always helps. And then, since I would only stay for, like, a year, a year-and-a-half at each restaurant, once you start -- once you -- you know, like you become a part of, like, a cook, like, crowd. There's, like -- there's a group of cooks. And when you go out afterwards or, you know, like you, like, oh, you used to work there? You used to work there? Like, it becomes -- and you get more respect for that.

  • 12:48:22

    DAVILA-BOLDINSo once I stepped into my first management role, it was a little bit easier, I think, because they would be like, oh, you worked at those places? Then you must know what -- a little bit of what you're talking about. So that part was easier. But then I kind of found it that in Chicago, it was a lot -- it wasn't as -- it wasn't until I came here in D.C. that I really noticed a lot of, I guess, discrimination with women in the kitchen. In Chicago, it was not. I really didn't feel that way at all.

  • 12:48:53

    NNAMDIIs there any of the same kind of gender cliquishness among male food writers, Charlotte?

  • 12:48:58

    DRUCKMANI don't know about that. I sort of take issue with the criticism lobbed at female food writers who are said to only write about male chefs because we're more interested in men. And I say that only because I think male food writers tend to be just as interested in male chefs. I think the problem is a lack of interest in female chefs. So it's hard to say if there's an actual clique in that sense.

  • 12:49:29

    DRUCKMANBut what I do think you see happens is that people like to work with their friends, or you become friends with the people that you work with. So sometimes there's kind of a falling into it. You'll also see -- and this is just, I think, par for the course in the world of magazines and newspapers -- once you have worked with a writer or an editor, if you get along, you'll tend to take that person with you where you go.

  • 12:49:51

    DRUCKMANSo if you change from one publication to another, you might take your writers with you. So you'll tend to see the same writers showing up in the same publications, and then you'll see that editor move and you'll see -- so I know it doesn't quite answer your question, but I think it has more to do with the logistics of how the publishing world works than it does with a certain kind of sexism where guy food writers only want to hang out with each other and girl food writers only want to hang out with each other.

  • 12:50:21

    NNAMDIGot an email from Jonathan, who said, "Are some cuisines going to be more difficult, challenging environments for a female chef, for example, French or Italian? Also, would Ann, please, talk about the new taqueria she is opening on 14th."

  • 12:50:37

    CASHIONOK.

  • 12:50:40

    NNAMDIPlease.

  • 12:50:41

    CASHIONI think -- well, I think that French environments are challenging, definitely for women, just to answer the first question.

  • 12:50:47

    NNAMDISure.

  • 12:50:48

    CASHIONItalian environments have, at least in my case, been very rewarding of women. I have found -- well, I actually worked in Italy. And I worked for Francesco Ricchi, who many of you know from here in D.C. But at the time, he had never -- he was married to an American woman. She was not from D.C., but they had their family's restaurant right outside of Florence in Tuscany. And although Francesco was the chef, the kitchen was really sort of powered by women.

  • 12:51:25

    CASHIONAnd, you know, you sort of have that image of, you know, the Italian grandmother, Italian regional cooking being so closely connected to home cooking, and that was really true in Italy at the time. So my experience with Italian has -- was a very nurturing one, and it was extremely influential and positive.

  • 12:51:43

    NNAMDIWhat's going to happen on 14th Street, when?

  • 12:51:45

    CASHIONWell, we -- our taqueria, the Taqueria Nacional, that we now currently operate out of the back door of Johnny's Half Shell, is going to have a home of its own now, hopefully as early as December. It is basically -- think of it as a stationary taco truck. You know, it's all tacos all the time. We also have, you know, a nice great sort of selection of aguas frescas, which are fresh fruit drinks. We will actually have also beer and margaritas, which we don't currently have. So, yeah, look for that to open at 14th and T sometime in the next couple of months.

  • 12:52:31

    NNAMDIDiana, we are running out of time, but I can't help observing that you have a young child. How do you juggle the responsibilities of being a parent as well as being the executive chef of a busy restaurant like Jackie's?

  • 12:52:43

    DAVILA-BOLDINIt's really, really extremely hard.

  • 12:52:45

    NNAMDII patronize a lot. But go ahead.

  • 12:52:48

    DAVILA-BOLDINIt's really hard. I think that that was the only time that I've ever been, like -- the only time that I've actually, like, damned men. Like, you have no idea. Like, you don't have to do this. You know, like, you don't have to go through this. It's very hard. You know, it's really hard for me to -- you know, I don't know. I feel like I kind of gave myself a lot of guilt, like, for not -- you know, I just ridiculously love what I do, and I didn't want to have to choose. And...

  • 12:53:20

    NNAMDISo you do both?

  • 12:53:21

    DAVILA-BOLDINYeah, so I do both, and it's really hard. But, I mean, it's rewarding as well.

  • 12:53:25

    NNAMDIHave you been able to stop working six days a week and only work five?

  • 12:53:30

    DAVILA-BOLDINYes.

  • 12:53:32

    NNAMDIYou said yes. Some of the time?

  • 12:53:35

    DAVILA-BOLDINYeah, some of the time. It just depends. You just have to -- I have no idea how I do it sometimes. I don't know.

  • 12:53:41

    NNAMDIYou do it, and you obviously do it very well because one just has to look at the clientele at Jackie's to see how well Diana Davila-Bolden is doing. Unfortunately, we are out of time. Ann, you wanted to say one quick thing?

  • 12:53:53

    CASHIONI did. I wanted to invite your listeners to Johnny's Half Shell tomorrow night. Charlotte will be signing books, copy of her books. We have hors d'oeuvres prepared by myself and Carla Hall of D.C...

  • 12:54:05

    NNAMDIOh, Carla very well, yes.

  • 12:54:06

    CASHIONYes. And you could meet Diana. She's going to be there. So, yeah, it's $45, which includes a copy of "Skirt Steak." There would be...

  • 12:54:16

    NNAMDIThe whole crew.

  • 12:54:17

    CASHIONYeah. So...

  • 12:54:18

    NNAMDIThe whole crew will be there tomorrow night at Johnny's Half Shell from what time?

  • 12:54:21

    CASHIONYes, 6:00 to 8:00.

  • 12:54:23

    NNAMDIAnn Cashion is the chef and co-owner at Johnny's Half Shell, Diana Davila-Bolden is the executive chef at Jackie's Restaurant in Silver Spring, and Charlotte Druckman is a food writer and author, whose most recent book is titled "Skirt Steak: Women Chefs on Standing the Heat and Staying in the Kitchen." Thank you all for joining us. And thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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Friday, Nov 21 2014Sorting political fact from fiction, and having fun while we're at it. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.