As a chef on top of her game, officially one of the best in the world with a couple of restaurants and two Michelin stars, Dominique Crenn has no doubt dealt with her fair share of sexism from a male-dominated industry (not least having her success partly attributed to her looks and having “that French accent”).
So when a man asked her recently during an on-stage talk with three male chefs whether she’d sacrificed having a family in order to pursue her work, she wasn’t having any of it – and skewered him with a killer response, much to the delight of the audience.
Crenn, behind the renowned Atelier Crenn in San Francisco, was in conversation with fellow chefs Brett Graham (of The Ledbury in London), Peter Gilmore (Quay in Sydney) and Massimo Bottura (Osteria Francescana in Italy) at the Sydney Opera House for #50BestTalks, part of the celebrations around this year’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards.
The chefs then started taking questions from the audience, and one man asked Crenn: “Did you have to choose between career and to be, something that I think is pretty important, and that is to be a mother of child?”
Eye-rolls all round.
Though the asker later said he didn’t intend to “be rude or intrude”, that’s obviously exactly what the question was: rude and intrusive (not to mention the needless addition of his own thoughts on the importance of becoming a mother).
Additionally, he assumed she must have decided not to have children to be so successful. Apart from the fact that his assumption completely ignores the myriad of reasons people haven’t had children, the French chef eloquently pointed out that babies aren’t necessarily a barrier to career success – by casually revealing she does in fact have twin daughters.
Replying, rather politely in the circumstances, with “That is loaded!” she went on to say: “If I want to be a mother, maybe I am, and you don’t know that. Maybe I am, and I am – I have two twin daughters […] God, this is again the same conversation ‘Oh you women, you have to make choices…’ Can’t we talk about something else?
“I appreciate what you are asking and I understand that, and I want you to really think about the question you asked me and I hope you can ask me another question right now.”
When he backpedalled, Crenn suggested if he’s also managed the “pretty important” feat of bearing offspring, that perhaps he’d like to consider his own position.
“You actually make choices in life, doesn’t matter if you are male or female. Family is something and also your passion is something, and you can mix both of it, and if you have kids I hope you stay home and let your wife go out there and be a badass woman, you know?”
Cue thunderous applause.
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Crenn, who also has Petit Crenn and a neighbouring wine bar in San Francisco, was crowned World’s Best Female Chef in 2016 by 50 Best, while Atelier Crenn is ranked 83 in this year’s list of the top 100 restaurants. Following a debate about whether having a separate award for women is a symptom of sexism in the industry, Crenn told The New York Times that she hoped her acceptance drew attention to the issue, saying: “I hope that award won’t exist in two years. But then I thought, ‘Am I going to fight it or am I going to do something with it?’”
However the same piece drew criticism for citing restaurant critic Michael Bauer’s thoughts on Crenn, who said, “She cooks the way the men are cooking” before adding “She has been successful because she does have talent, and she has worked hard.
“But let’s be honest, also because she has enormous charisma, she’s beautiful, and has that French accent.”
Yep, we find that definitely matters when we’re gorging on a delicious, precisely executed tasting menu. Sigh.
Images: The World’s 50 Best Restaurants