We ask a few Manchester chefs to respond to Marco Pierre White’s latest comments

Last month Marco Pierre White, the dynamic chef of yore, lost himself the female vote. He was quoted in the Irish Independent saying that he felt female chefs were too emotional in the kitchen, and would have trouble lifting heavy pans - although he did credit them with having a better palate and gave them points for their presentation skills. Whoop-de-doo. 

Needless to say, it’s created a catalyst for a conversation. Professional female chefs and women in the hospitality industry everywhere took to social media to express just how laughable it is to suggest that women could somehow have less strength of character in a kitchen because of their gender. 

I’d like to see Marco do a lunch service and lactate at the same time

I, for one, worked my arse off in my cafe for 13 years on New Smithfield Market where we opened at 2am and I didn’t start my maternity leave until I was 7cm dilated. I also interviewed bar staff whilst breastfeeding my daughter. I’d like to see Marco do a lunch service and lactate at the same time. 

Mary-Ellen McTague of The Creameries agrees: “EXACTLY! I still had stitches in when I went back to work. Aren’t women just fucking HARD AS NAILS incredible?”

Yes Mary-Ellen. Yes we are. 

We asked a few more chefs what they made of Marco’s comments.

Chaat Cart Festival

Aarti Pandey of Chaat Cart 

“In the brave new world of 2019 women should not have to justify their presence ANY profession. We shouldn’t need to constantly explain ourselves as we work and build our careers. I set up Chaat Cart with a five month old baby, cooked for hundreds while heavily pregnant and breastfed while interviewing. But none of that matters; our (women’s) work and achievements should speak for themselves. MPW is seeking attention and desperately trying to be relevant; he isn’t worthy of a response really. Most of the best chefs in the world claim to get their inspiration and love of cooking from their mothers and grandmothers. Lets celebrate that and start a new conversation.

Our head chef Laura said ‘he can suck my f£%king dick’, I can’t really put it more eloquently than that.”

2018 09 10 Mfdf Rachel Stockley

Rachel Stockley of Baratxuri 

“Marco has such an enviable legacy, that has marked out much of the British fine dining scene, that it makes it so much more uncomfortable that he’s said what he’s said. He’s so revered in our industry - I’ve worked with a lot of chefs that love quoting him, and as ludicrous as his statements are, his words may well still be repeated in kitchens around the country and further afield. I may not have come from a Michelin star background, but my 1st Exec Chef and 1st Head Chef, always treated me as neither a female or a male, but just as Chef. An apprentice, a Commis Chef, a Chef de Partie and so on. I earned respect by not being stronger or withholding my emotions, but by being a team player, a grafter and trying to be a nice person. This is how I continue to work and I hope it’s the example I set to others at our restaurant.”

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Leanne Bashforth, Head Chef of Foundation Coffee House 

“I had no idea he made those comments and wish I didn’t know, its infuriating to hear things like that and so many people think like him, if a woman has an opinion about something in a kitchen she’s automatically seen as moaning where as the man’s opinion is correct. I could rant about this subject all night but I’ve worked in kitchens 17 years now and the best chefs I’ve worked under have been female. I think we keep our composure a lot more than men to be honest. I can’t/can believe he said that, the older I get the more it bothers me how male dominated our industry is. I think women can control their emotions lot more, people feel energies and FOH staff don’t want to walk in a kitchen with such angry negative emotions coming from a man. We speak about things and deal with them. I put my emotions into my food - my heart and soul - so even if we are more emotional that’s gonna lead to a better plate of food being out in the pass if you ask me.”

2019 06 28 Mr Coopers Chef Rebecca Richardson

Rebecca Richardson, Head Chef at Mr Cooper’s at The Midland Hotel

“It’s a shame to hear comments such as these but sadly, they are still quite common in this industry. But, I’ve brushed myself off, picked up my heavy spoon and begun another day’s battle. It’s astonishing that women are still seen as the underdog in this day and age but it is still very much the case.

“It’s always harder for a women to get a job as a chef but we do it! And it’s harder for us to gain respect but we do it! But it is much easier for us to multi-task, have attention to detail and organise the team. In my time of being a chef I have had to help and support a lot of men who were having difficulties, perhaps on reflection this is something a man could not go to another man for. We all have our strengths and weakness, whether you’re male or female and we all work around them which makes us the chefs we are.”

Our editor Deanna Thomas happened to be hobnobbing with none other than industry powerhouse Raymond Blanc earlier this week, when he was hosting an event at Brasserie Blanc Hale Barns, and she asked him for his thoughts on the issue.

2019 08 30 Raymond Blanc

“No, no. Wrong wrong wrong. I disagree and will argue with that profoundly. I have at least 40 women working in the kitchens at le Manoir.” What about Marco’s comments on women lacking the necessary physical strength? “Well we don’t want to create an assisted culture, but obviously if something is too heavy, if you need a bit of help to carry something, rather than watching you fend for yourself, then let’s hope a bloody guy will help.”

Marco Pierre White

My cafe on New Smithfield Market fed the night shift of employees working outside in all weathers. I fed them well and they enjoyed the experience, so why would gender be relevant? I was on the receiving end of all sorts of piss-taking, but it was all good honest banter. Was it offensive? No, because it was all said with love and laughter. Do I find what Marco said offensive? Hell yes. 

The only time I felt mildly hysterical in my kitchen was when I thought I’d found my first stretch mark, but it turned out to be a griddle burn on my baby bump. And as for having the strength to lift heavy pans, bring it on Chef, this New Smithfield girl will arm-wrestle you for it any day.