When I saw people promoting the De La Terre dinner at CBD Provisions on Facebook, I thought, "Awesome. Dinner that benefits a charity, plus tons of fancy chefs: Janice Provost, Misti Norris, Anastacia Quinones — this'll be great.
And then I read the headline of the flier. "Twelve Dallas Female Chefs." And the event is continuously promoted as the "all-female chef dinner."
It got me to thinking: Do we usually promote dinners like this using such terms? I haven't seen an "all-male chef" dinner promoted recently. Or a "two tall, 35-year-old, vaping, tattooed white dudes and one shorter dude" dinner. It's not that I wouldn't go to those dinners — I like dudes and tattoos and tall and short people. And now, I'm pretty sure I'll be hosting a series of these dinners myself. "Seven Bearded Dudes Who Refuse To Tweeze!" Call it the BuzzFeed series.
This certainly isn't the only ad that has ever highlighted "female chefs." When I asked Carolanne Treadwell of CBD Provisions, the event's organizer, about the ad, she tells me the marketing team at The Joule created the ad. "We weren't trying to be, 'rah-rah we're girls,'" she says. It was just an ad for the event. Marketing it this way probably wasn't even done with that much thought — it's a habit we've fallen into. And it's a habit that needs to be broken.
"Female" as the descriptor here lacks relevance when "badass," "talented," "cutting-edge" or "ballsy" would have worked in its place.
Did you see the list of heavy-hitters on this thing? I don't even know how they decided the order of the chefs on this list, because every damn one of them is making huge waves in their restaurants. Every name on this list of chefs is defining something about Dallas cuisine right now. Every single one of these chefs is going to serve up some golden food wins for the lucky diners who got tickets. When I called this morning to check on tickets, I learned the dinner is sold out — as it should be — and they're going to raise tons of money to help tons of people who need it. (The event benefits Genesis Women’s Shelter, a Dallas shelter that provides resources for women experiencing domestic violence and abuse.)
Women are no longer endangered unicorns in the kitchen. Dallas is filled with restaurants led by women. In fact, a ton of female chefs are not involved with this dinner likely because they had scheduling conflicts with other dinners or events or TV shows they're hosting.
When Danyele McPherson or Janice Provost or Misti Norris are running the line, calling for food to be fired for a table, nobody says, "Yes, Female Chef." They say, "Yes, Chef."
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And when Anastacia Quinones describes her food, she doesn't say, "My food is very lady-focused. The cilantro is locally female-sourced and we only serve female pork." Because of course she doesn't. That would be ridiculous. Sure, being a woman is a part of their lives as chefs, but it doesn't define their entire body of work, right?
So, why do we keep casually using this definer in advertising for events these chefs participate in? Why do press releases call out things like, "she's the winningest female chef in barbecue?" Why are agents so set on promoting these chefs as women first? The headline of this ad could have just been "12 Kickass Dallas Chefs," and it would say so much more.
We've come a long way in the kitchen when it comes to gender issues. Let's go just a little further.
The De La Terre dinner is 6 p.m. Sunday, May 1, at CBD Provisions, 214-261-4500. Tickets are $130 per person.