Who says there are few Michelin-worthy female chefs in France, says film-maker


A plaque with the 2018 three Michelin stars is displayed during the Michelin Guide 2018 award ceremony at the Seine Musicale center in France on Feb 5, 2018.
A plaque with the 2018 three Michelin stars is displayed during the Michelin Guide 2018 award ceremony at the Seine Musicale center in France on Feb 5, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (NYTimes) - Perhaps nothing represents the tradition of French cuisine more than the Guide Michelin, whose coveted stars can make or break restaurants around the world.

But this year's guide collided with the #MeToo moment, when it awarded new stars to 57 French restaurants, only two of which have women chefs.

"I was really shocked and angry because it's been years that we don't understand why, in the 50 new stars, there are no or very few women," said Vérane Frédiani, a film-maker who made a documentary about the search for female chefs around the world.

She sent up a post on Twitter with the hashtag #MichelinToo, inspired by the #MeToo movement. Her aim was not so much to denounce sexual abuse in restaurant kitchens - though there is plenty of that - but to shame the sacred guide for what she considers its abiding contempt towards women.

The two women who won stars this year bring the total to 16 female chefs among the 621 Michelin-starred restaurants in France.

That is a paltry ratio - less than 3 per cent - even compared with other countries.

Of the 195 Michelin-starred restaurants in Spain, only 19 have women chefs, according to the guide's publisher, Groupe Michelin. There are only 20 women chefs at the 166 starred restaurants in the United States. Italy has the most, with 44 out of 365, or about 12 per cent.

Gender imbalance in the kitchen is as French as foie gras and as traditional as a postprandial coffee. France has long enshrined the practice in which women cook at home for the family while men acquire fame and wealth as chefs in famous restaurants.

The Guide Michelin is inextricably part of tradition, and reflects the prevailing norms. In its 118-year history, it has awarded its top honour, three stars, to only four women chefs.

Frédiani hopes to change that. While making her 2017 documentary, she discovered that there were many women chefs. She and her friends are now trying to come up with their own list of restaurants owned by female chefs in France.

After an appeal sent through social media, they received about 200 names.

"The idea is to publish it openly," she said. "So we can no longer say that there are no female chefs in France."