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Spotlight For The Love Of Food: Female Chefs On How They Reached Success

For The Love Of Food: Female Chefs On How They Reached Success

For The Love Of Food: Female Chefs On How They Reached Success
By Elaine Nuestro
By Elaine Nuestro
March 18, 2020
Three prominent female chefs share how it's like to be in a male-dominated industry and how they've managed to come out on top

Jessie Sincioco (Owner and Chef, Chef Jessie Restaurants)

Helming the kitchen of the very popular Chef Jessie Rockwell Club is the ever cheerful Chef Jessie Sincioco. If you happen to visit her restaurant, you may notice Chef Jessie greeting guests at every table with a wide smile on her face. Equipped with years of experience, Chef Jessie gives us a peek into her humble beginnings as a chef:

1. Why did you decide to become a chef?

The decision actually happened when I started training in the pastry kitchen of Hotel InterContinental in Ayala Avenue. As soon as I set foot in the Pastry kitchen and witnessed all the good stuff that were being done and prepared before my eyes, I told myself:

This is my place on earth! This is where I want to be!

2. Where and how were you trained?

My training for kitchen work officially started at home with my Auntie Lita as my mentor. This was continued at the Pastry kitchen of Hotel InterContinental Manila after winning the Grand Prize in the baking category of the Great Maya Cookfest.

3. Have you experienced discrimination in the kitchen because of your gender?

Yes! The Filipino pastry chef at that time made a statement saying that he won't allow any girl in his kitchen. He somehow made things a bit tough for me but that that did not discouraged me from pursuing something I really like!  I told myself, "Will I give up this work I truly love just because of that?" My strong conviction to keep my work prevailed! I could not imagine where I am now if I did not fight for my right!

4. How did you make sure your voice was heard in a male-dominated industry?

I made sure I did my work exceptionally well so that they would not have any reason to bring me down, and of course, I always stood and fought for what is right.

5. What is your advice to aspiring female chefs?

Never make your gender an obstacle to your dream profession or career!  If you  are able to discover what you really want to do in life, by all means go for it without hesitation. It is only in doing what you truly love that can lead you to success!

Anne-Cécile Degenne (Executive Chef, Raffles Makati)

Having worked with some of the best and the brightest in the kitchen, chef Anne-Cécile Degenne is no stranger to a tough and busy kitchen. The then Top Chef (France) contestant shares:

1. Why did you decide to become a chef?

As far as I can remember, I have always wanted to become a chef. Cooking was part of my daily life starting at an early age and I loved eating too! I just found it more fun to do cooking myself.

2. Where and how were you trained?

I trained at a fine dining restaurant in France when I was 17 years old. Then, I moved to a Michelin-starred restaurant for my first full-time post. My training was old-school which meant long hours and countless challenges.

3. Have you experienced discrimination in the kitchen because of your gender?

In the early stages of my career, I was always assigned to the pastry kitchen even though my expertise and goals were in the hot station. As a woman, I wasn’t given a chance right away to fulfil this goal because of the notion that the hot station is not a place for women—it’s too hot, the pots are too heavy to carry, or it’s too difficult. I remained persistent and showed that I am well capable of holding my own in a hot station alongside male chefs.

4. How did you make sure your voice was heard in a male-dominated industry?

There’s only one way to be respected by your colleagues: work. Work harder and smarter than the rest. Show them that you deserve to be where you are.

5. What is your advice to aspiring female chefs?

Follow your dreams! No matter how long it will take you and no matter how hard you have to work to get there.

If you want to be a chef, you can—it’s all about your passion and how you work. Don’t let anyone dictate what you can or cannot do because you’re a woman

Use it to fuel your hard work and show them you can do it. Keep working until you find the right mentor and love your job every day.

Miko Calo (Chef and Partner, Metronome)

Manning the kitchen of Best Restaurants Guide 2020's Best New Restaurant, Metronome, is the talented and modest chef, Miko Calo. Having worked extensively in the kitchens of the Michelin-recognised chef, Joël Robuchon, Chef Miko lets us in on how her journey was before opening her own restaurant.

1. Why did you decide to become a chef?

Because I love the idea of making people happy through food.

2. Where and how were you trained?

I worked in a couple of establishments here in the Philippines, then I took further culinary studies in Ferrandi Paris. Afterwards, I worked in the kitchens of Joël Robuchon, in Paris, London, and Singapore, this was in a span of seven years.

3. Have you experienced discrimination in the kitchen because of your gender?

Not blatantly but during my time in the hotel kitchens here in Manila, most of the women where assigned in the cold and pastry kitchen which was presumably less physically demanding than the rest of the kitchen.

4. How did you make sure your voice was heard in a male-dominated industry?

I spoke up, I performed, I learned everything I needed to learn and focused on reaching my goals

5. What is your advice to aspiring female chefs?

Stay focused, be determined, and don't get intimidated by the challenges in the kitchen.

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