Kitchens have changed for the better, and we want to keep that going, Giselle Roux told delegates at a Women in Food networking event last week.
The event, part of Compass UK & Ireland's Women in Food programme, was held at Somerset House in London. Giselle and her daughter, Restaurant Associates consultant chef Emily, spoke to an audience of around 200 people in hospitality.
The pair launched their first book together, New French Table, just a few days ago. Emily also revealed she is looking at properties in London to open a Mediterranean restaurant with her husband Diego Ferrari, head chef at her father Michel Roux Jr's restaurant Le Gavroche, potentially next year.
Emily and Giselle praised initiatives such as the Women in Food programme for encouraging women; although they did not agree that women-only awards were necessarily the best way to encourage female chefs ("Do you go to eat Angela Hartnett's food because she's a female? No. You go because you like her food," said Emily).
Emily also suggested that the industry has more of a problem retaining than attracting women, and it can be difficult for women to come back to the workplace after having children. She urged employers and employees to communicate and discuss hours and splitting shifts.
She added she felt it has historically been a male-dominated place of work due to the aggressive male chefs formerly seen on televisions, an environment which she believes is changing.
"Chefs are changing their attitude in the sense that now we've got open kitchens, guests can hear and see you, so it's a lot more quieter and tame, which is what they're supposed to be. I think that attracts more women," she said. "I think it's become a lot better. The first restaurant I worked at I was the only female chef there."
The pair said the growth in prominence of female chefs such as Monica Galetti, Clare Smyth and Angela Hartnett, especially on television, is helping attract more women into hospitality and show them what they can achieve.
Emily revealed that Giselle originally discouraged her from becoming a chef, knowing the long hours it would entail, however said that she believes her mother's opinion would be different were she to express interest in going to catering college now.
When asked what key qualities a female chef should possess, Emily said determination and concentration, but added: "Believe in yourself. Be strong and you can do it."
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