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Working the Line: New Girl

As you’ve probably figured out, I am a woman in the culinary industry. Is my gender a relevant factor of my experience in the kitchen? Of course. Should it be? That’s debatable.

Every day is spent sweating and getting hot oil splashed onto my face. The tiny hairs on my hands and forearms are nearly nonexistent now because of the blazing hot flames that ascend from our massive gas stoves. I burn myself at least once a week and manage to cut myself about once a month. (It used to happen more frequently, which was super embarrassing, not to mention painful.) These things happen to every line cook, but I apparently seem more badass because I’m of the “fairer” sex.

The first few weeks I started working at my restaurant were rough. I was the new girl. Sure, I’d done exceptionally well on my written evaluation and got hired the same night I did my working interview in the kitchen, but I was entering new territory. I needed help with recipes, I needed help finding things, and I needed help plating. It took a good two months before I felt like I really pulled my weight in the kitchen. I pride myself on the fact that I can now do everything on my own yet still hate that I sometimes need a male cook to help me put up giant boxes of produce in the walk-in fridge.

I’m an incredibly critical person and I’m always harder on myself than I probably need to be. According to an independent survey, women make up about 20 percent of the kitchen workforce. Why is it that I insist on working in a career dominated by men? It’s that darn masochism again. Plus, I’ve just always been an independent and competitive person.

So what happens when there’s a new “new girl”?

I expect her to work just as hard as I do, but she definitely doesn’t.

New Girl is now into her twelfth week at the restaurant. Even on her first day, I immediately decided that she had terrible work ethic and was more interested in chatting and looking cute than learning how to do her job. I have nothing against pretty girls. In fact, I like to think I am one. But when I go to work I am not a pretty girl. I am a line cook. There is no reason to be applying makeup and fussing with your hair for the first 10 minutes of your shift. Furthermore, there is no reason you should constantly be touching your face and fixing your hair once you’re on the line.

Yes, I’m harder on her because she is also a female, but if I’m able to get everything in place before shift, so should she.

I try to keep some perspective and think about how there is a learning curve. I feel that we often forget what it’s like to be a newbie. With that being said, some people really need to speed the heck up! But I’m not the boss, and it’s not my place to keep her in line.

So what’s my point this week? There really isn’t one. I’ll just keep charging on with the values and lessons I’ve learned over the years. And someday, perhaps, I can be successful enough to be someone else’s angry chef, who just happens to be a woman.