Best female chef in Asia: 'Women cook just as well as men'

Thai chef Duangporn Songvisava, better known as ‘Bo,’ was recently named the best female chef in Asia for her restaurant Bo.lan in Bangkok.

In conjunction with the launch last week of the inaugural edition of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, which ranked the top dining destinations in the region, organizers handed out a separate award for women, just as they do for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

A scan of the winning eateries, meanwhile, shows that both lists are male-dominated.

Could the best female chef category, then, simply serve as a consolation prize for women?

In a phone inerview with Relaxnews, Chef Bo pauses for a moment to consider the question before delivering her verdict.

No, if anything, she says, including such a category serves to encourage fellow female chefs to soldier on and pursue their culinary dreams -- especially when those ambitions are often thwarted by plans to build a family or physical exhaustion.

“It proves that it is possible to be a successful female chef,” she said.

It’s true that the odds are stacked against women in the kitchen, especially when it comes to the heavy lifting -- literally.

First off, the physical workload can be daunting for a female chef. Tasks such as lifting a vat of oil to fill the deep fryer, for instance, or lifting industrial size pots of stock onto the stove don’t come easy for women.

Secondly, for many females in the kitchen, culinary dreams are often put on the back burner -- and subsequently on indefinite hold -- for the bigger dream of having children and starting a family, says Bo.

Not so for men, however.

“For a male chef, he can continue to work when he has a baby. But for women, it’s a lot more difficult and more complicated.”

'Having it all'

Bo’s award, meanwhile, comes seven months after she gave birth to a baby boy named Keith, her first child with husband and fellow chef Dylan Jones, who also works at the Bo.lan kitchen.

Bo is fortunate, however, to be the chef-owner of her own restaurant with her husband at her side. It’s a position that allowed her to work up to three days before delivering and gives her the luxury of being able to call the shots -- i.e. bringing the baby into the restaurant every day.

Being owner of the restaurant also means she’s not necessarily on her feet cooking eight hours a day, but means overseeing the kitchen and taking care of the administrative details in the office -- a luxury not all female chefs can afford.

But when it comes to cooking, gender differences end at the physical logistics of strength and childbirth, she says.

“Women can cook just as well as the guys. What we just lack is the physical strength. We have the same amount of creativity and skills and we’re capable of doing just as well as men. We just can’t lift as much.”

Meanwhile, being a female chef in Southeast Asia also comes with the benefit of being more fluid and less rigid than Western kitchens, which are ruled by strict hierarchies, she added.

In Thailand, for instance, chefs who cooked for the royal family were all women, which could explain why attitudes towards head female chefs are more open and accepted, she said.

Furthermore, the restaurant culture in Southeast Asia is much more casual than in the Western world, she points out. Kitchens are less likely to be ruled with the iron fist of a shouting, intimidating dictator, for instance, or strict pecking orders that must be adhered to.

“It’s much easier to be a female chef and work in Asia than it is to be a female chef in Europe.”

Songvisava opened Bo.lan in 2009. Menus are developed in line with the Slow Food philosophy of using fresh, local, seasonal ingredients, and upholding the country’s culinary heritage. That means the kitchen doesn’t skimp out on authenticity -- or chilies -- for Western palates or shy away from ingredients and flavors that may be unfamiliar to foreigners. In addition to running one of the hottest dining destinations in Bangkok, Songvisava also hosts the Thai TV program "Eat, Am Are," which examines issues such as food security and sustainable food consumption.


vs/kc

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • US ambassador recovers from knife attack praised by N. Korea
    US ambassador recovers from knife attack praised by N. Korea

    The US ambassador to South Korea, Mark Lippert, was recovering from surgery Thursday after having his face and arm slashed by a knife-wielding activist in an attack applauded by North Korean state media. The United States condemned the "act of violence" which saw the ambassador rushed to hospital where his condition was described as stable after two-and-a-half hours of surgery that included 80 stitches to a deep gash on his right cheek. During the assault, Kim screamed a slogan in favour of …

  • Billionaire finds wreck of WWII ship in Phl
    Billionaire finds wreck of WWII ship in Phl

    Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen says he has found the Japanese Navy’s biggest warship at the bottom of the sea in the Philippines, 70 years after US forces sank it. Allen posted a photo on Twitter on Tuesday of the World War II battleship Musashi’s rusty bow, which bore the Japanese empire’s Chrysanthemum seal. The American billionaire, who has also pursued space exploration, said his luxury yacht and exploration ship, the M/Y Octopus, found the Musashi one kilometer (1.6 miles) deep on the …

  • New Moro rebel group emerges
    New Moro rebel group emerges

    A radical Muslim cleric trained in the Middle East and considered one of the leaders of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) has broken away from the terror group to form his own band of jihadists who are now reportedly providing sanctuary to bomb expert Basit Usman and at least five foreign militants, the military said yesterday. Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla, citing reports from the field, said the Justice for Islamic Movement (JIM) was …

  • Miriam bucks house arrest for Enrile
    Miriam bucks house arrest for Enrile

    Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago believes granting Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile house arrest, while former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo remains under hospital detention, will violate the equal protection clause of the Constitution. “That’s already a violation of the equal protection of the law,” she said. …

  • Ohio mom, boyfriend guilty; child emailed teacher for help

    PORTSMOUTH, Ohio (AP) — A woman and her boyfriend pleaded guilty to raping her young children and were sentenced to prison on Wednesday, a year after one of her daughters emailed a teacher for help and said she and her siblings were being chained to their beds, deprived of food and sexually assaulted. …

  • World's oldest person wonders about secret to longevity too
    World's oldest person wonders about secret to longevity too

    TOKYO (AP) — The world's oldest person says 117 years doesn't seem like such a long time. …

  • Sy moves up, Villar enters Forbes list of billionaires
    Sy moves up, Villar enters Forbes list of billionaires

    Eleven Filipinos are included in Forbes’ 2015 list of richest people in the world. Filipino-Chinese tycoon Henry Sy Sr. continues to be the wealthiest man in the Philippines. The 90-year-old SM supermalls, banking and property tycoon ranked 73rd among the world’s richest with an increased net worth of $14.2 billion from $11.4 billion last year. Sy’s net worth was attributed to the continued growth of his SM Investments Corp. and his more recent venture, the City of Dreams Manila resort and …

  • Ex-crew recognizes photos of sunken Japanese battleship
    Ex-crew recognizes photos of sunken Japanese battleship

    TOKYO (AP) — A former crewmember on a Japanese battleship that sank during World War II said Thursday he recognized photos of wreckage discovered this week off the Philippines by a team led by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options