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.

  • AFP monitoring deployment of Chinese seaplanes in Spratlys
    AFP monitoring deployment of Chinese seaplanes in Spratlys

    The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is adopting a wait and see approach amid reports that China will soon deploy seaplanes to further strengthen its maritime claims in the disputed Spratlys. Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala, spokesman for the military and commander of the AFP Civil Relations Service, said they have yet to ascertain the real purpose behind China’s continuing aggressive moves in the region. “We will wait and see before coming up with an official stand,” Kakilala said when …

  • US eyes access to Phl bases in 8 locations
    US eyes access to Phl bases in 8 locations

    The United States has asked for access to Philippine military bases in eight locations to rotate troops, aircraft and ships as Washington shifts its forces to Asia and as China expands its military presence in the South China Sea. US Defense Secretary Ash Carter, in a speech in Arizona, has outlined Washington’s next phase in its Asia “pivot,” deploying its most sophisticated destroyers, bombers and fighters to the region. The Asia “pivot” has already seen US Marines rotating through the …

  • Washington bucks China’s aggressive actions
    Washington bucks China’s aggressive actions

    Short of condemning China’s aggressive actions in the West Philippine Sea, a senior US military official said Washington does not support any act of coercion and bullying. “We don’t stand for coercion, bullying and aggressiveness,” said Brig. Gen. Christopher Mahoney, assistant US military director for  Phl-US Joint Balikatan Exercises 2015. At the sidelines of this year’s joint military exercises’ static aircraft display held at Clark Air Base in Pampanga, Mahoney told a media briefing that …

  • ‘Giving Bangsamoro police control is constitutional’
    ‘Giving Bangsamoro police control is constitutional’

    The proposed grant to the chief minister of the envisioned Bangsamoro region of operational control over police forces in the area is consistent with the Constitution, a senior administration lawmaker said yesterday. It is clear in the proposed BBL that the Bangsamoro police will be part of the Philippine National Police (PNP), while the Bangsamoro Regional Police Board (BRPB) will be part of the National Police Commission (Napolcom) and will carry out Napolcom’s mandate in the region,” he …

  • Noy off to KL for Asean meet
    Noy off to KL for Asean meet

    President Aquino will arrive here this afternoon with Manila hopeful of support from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to achieve peace and stability in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) as well as economic prosperity and inclusive growth among the people in the region. Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Jose Eduardo Malaya III said that with respect to the dramatic developments in the South China Sea, Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman had called for the early …

  • Madrid Fusion Manila reignites Pinoy appetite for great food
    Madrid Fusion Manila reignites Pinoy appetite for great food

    After months of preparation and hard work from both the government and private sectors, the future of food is finally here in the country’s capital. Madrid Fusión Manila opened its doors on Friday to an international delegation who eagerly awaited the discussions of some of the most renowned and revered names in the culinary world. Madrid Fusión Manila is a historic gastronomic event marked by talks and exhibitions that showcases Spain and the Philippines’ shared cultural heritage, as well as …

  • Family receives execution order, visits Mary Jane
    Family receives execution order, visits Mary Jane

    As Philippine officials continue to plead for a stay in the execution of death convict Mary Jane Veloso, the Indonesian government has sent a notice to her family ordering her execution at an undisclosed date, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said yesterday. Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said Indonesian authorities also allowed Veloso’s family and her lawyers to visit her on Nebu Kambangan execution island. “The Prosecutor gave notice letter to the family of Mary Jane …

  • ‘Pinoys’ cheerful attitude backs tourism campaign’
    ‘Pinoys’ cheerful attitude backs tourism campaign’

    The 2015 World Happiness Report ranking the Philippines as 90th among 158 happiest countries is a validation of the government’s tourism campaign, “It’s more fun in the Philippines,” a Palace official said yesterday. The news did not come as a surprise as Filipinos are naturally cheerful, Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. of the Presidential Communications Operations Office said. …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options