When the Michelin Guide came out with its new list of culinary stars in the region for 2020, it was impossible to miss the lack of female chefs. I regularly work with Chef Caroline Alix of Restaurant Caro&Co in Bazas as part of my business coordinating local Bazadais farm tours in the Bordeaux countryside, highlightingfarmers and their products. Through this coordination it’s become clear that women are scarcely found in the professional kitchen locally, and certainly not chef owners. So, I made a point to get out and research this anomaly to make sure what I felt was actually real.
In the city of Bordeaux, I was only able to find two female chef owners where there is roughly one restaurant for every 285 citizens (source 20minutes.fr). Chef Oxana Ramat of Cromagnun and Chef Elodie Pichard of CRU*.
A native of Langon, in Gironde, Chef Elodie Pichard gives her paternal grandmother the credit for inspiring her to cook. She would spend time in the actual kitchen of her grandmothers, using real tools and real pots and pans to make real meals rather than spending time with a play kitchen like many other small children. Elodie completed her professional training at ICFA Bordeaux LAC, then interned with chef Pierrick Celibert of C’Yusha in Bordeaux, whom she considers her mentor.
It was at the 30th Bourse Badoit in 2017 (professional cooking competition) with Chef Thierry Marx that her signature veal tartare was introduced. The dish is still served in some form on the menu at her restaurant, CRU (‘raw’ in French). The first thing you notice when entering the restaurant is the calm and the warm welcome from Jeremie (her partner). The restaurant which serves primarily tartare and carpaccio was a concept conceived after Jeremie pointed out how hard it was to find good tartare in a restaurant. The open kitchen is at the far back of the restaurant with tables nearby, should you want to be close to the action.
Elodie has a glow about her as she speaks about food. She is serious about her craft and yet incredibly down to earth at the same time. Local products like Ferme Rougié duck and FermePuntoun foie gras are found on the menu. A walnut oil from Dordogne that is made in an old water powered press graces many of her dishes. It’s clear that sourcing local ingredients is important to CRU. Even someone who is not used to eating tartare will appreciate the freshness, the textures and the flavors of her food.
Considering why I started this project, I had to ask how Elodie felt being a female in the French kitchen. Elodie certainly doesn’t feel like it is the reason there aren’t more women in the professional restaurant industry. She mentioned the occasional sting when people come into the restaurant and assume her husband is the chef and speak directly to him, or the time when a photo of Bordeaux chefs was taken and only her and Chef Oxana Ramat of Cromagnon were cut out of the (now) all-male image. Small, but poignant. This is a great thing to hear, that sexism isn’t a reason more women aren’t cooking and owning their own restaurants but it doesn’t explain the obvious discrepancy in gender representation.
This past May, I was supposed to be leading a culinary school tour of Paris and Barcelona. It’s my tenth year of working with culinary school groups and it does feel like there are more female chefs, but it’s still a minute number. Comparatively, the culinary school attendees (with statistiqes from Ferrandi-Paris and The Culinary Institute of America taken into account) tend to be fifty percent female, with a majority of women going into pastry. Audrey Janet of Ferrandi-Paris made a good point, that it is only in the last decade that these numbers of female culinary graduates have been achieved and that we should be seeing more female chef owners and head chefs in the near future. It will be exiting to see what transpires over the next decade and with leaders like Chef Elodie Pichard to inspire current female culinary graduates to continue their career progression into leadership roles.
Addresses from this article :
Le Puntoun Foie Gras / Rte de Tarbes – 32300 St Martin / http://www.lepuntoun.com / +33 5 62 66 73 20
Aquitaine Travel Guide is a culinary tourism company based in the Bordeaux countryside connecting people with the local farmers, products and chefs. A true farm-to-table experience from oysters to foie gras. We support local business, women owned businesses, small farms, organic and biodynamic wines. www.aquitainetravelguide.com / firstname.lastname@example.org / +33 6 33 91 37 90
*please contact me if you are a female chef/owner in Bordeaux or surrounding areas