In this in-depth, behind-the-scenes tell-all about the lives of women chefs, journalist Charlotte Druckman walks the reader into the world behind the hot line. But this is a different perspective on the kitchen: one told through the voices of more than 100 of the best and brightest women cooking today. These are female chefs performing culinary and domestic high wire acts: juggling sharp knives, battering heat, bruising male egos, and working endless hours, often while raising small children and living from paycheck to paycheck. How they deal with pressures, the expectations, the successes and failures, makes for absorbing reading.
In this well-researched book, food journalist Druckman explores what it's like for women in the very intense and sometimes glamorous restaurant industry as she interviews 75 female chefs and restaurant owners from around the country. Initially, the author's jokey asides seem distracting and the footnotes reminiscent of a term paper, but once the other voices are interspersed, hers becomes endearing and the footnotes useful sources of additional background, including what certain lingo like BOH (back of house) means. She speaks with such luminaries as Alice Waters and Lydia Shire as well as newbies Christina Tosi and Stephanie Izard (to date the only woman to have won Top Chef). The chefs weigh in on a variety of subjects including how to promote themselves and grow their businesses via television and social media, and balancing 18-hour days and personal lives. But the biggest recurring issue they encounter is sexism, like the banker who won't give a chef-owner with a thriving restaurant a loan for a second place, the guys in the kitchen who verbally abuse and harass their female counterparts, and the pastry field, where many women end up and do spectacularly well, but are far less respected by awards outfits and restaurant critics.