It’s no secret that the food world is a dudely one. Chefs—especially those who achieve celebrity status—are usually men, and a “bros before hos” mentality permeates the industry, where women hold just 19% of chef positions, and female servers make 68% of the salaries male servers earn. Women working in the restaurant industry are also more likely to be sexually harassed on the job, and if that statistic doesn’t surprise you, then, like me, you’ve probably read one too many Anthony Bourdain books (you know, the ones where a
douchey manly disregard for others is prized above all else and women are openly mocked).
Enter Mario Batali, the Crocs-wearing beponytailed celebrity chef best known for his shows on the Food Network and that time he drove around Spain with Gwyneth Paltrow. Recently, Batali left the show Iron Chef, and earlier this week at the Atlantic Food Summit he explained why. Said Batali:
When they had judges like you [Corby Kummer] and Jeff Steingarten and Dana Cowin and Ed Levine, people whose opinion I felt merited the ability to criticize my food, that’s one thing. But when all of a sudden you get these skinny little actresses from a show called The OC and they’re saying they don’t like raw fish, I’m like, ‘Fuck you, why are you talking about my food? Who let you in this room?’ ‘Oh, I really don’t like that.’ Well who the fuck are you?
Here’s his interview with Corby Kummer:
Now, I’m sure that when someone from another industry judges your food it can get annoying. I’ve watched plenty of Iron Chef in my day, and Batali does indeed appear to be “busting his balls” to get the food ready, most of which looks pretty tasty. Hearing the O.C.’s Melinda Clarke say she doesn’t like spiny lobster after you’ve spent an hour cooking those suckers is probably a real drag. However, Mario Batali is a celebrity chef, and Iron Chef is a celebrity competition show—why so sour about judges from the entertainment industry? That’s the whole deal! Worse than that, though, is Batali’s dismissal of “skinny actresses” as having no business eating his food. Sexism: It’s what’s for dinner (and lunch and breakfast and dessert and tapas).
You’re next, Seth Cohen.
There’s a double standard in the restaurant biz when it comes to size. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the way Mario Batali’s weight is described compared to that of his celebrity chef colleague Paula Deen. Male chefs are “robust,” “hearty,” “meaty”—female chefs are fatasses who are to blame for the obesity epidemic. While this isn’t Batali’s fault, the way he blows off skinny women as incapable of tasting his food is not only whiny, it also reinforces the notion that a
fat husky man is the only credible authority when it comes to eating stuff. (Newsflash: Everyone eats. Judging food is one job that we’re all somewhat qualified for, seeing as how we practice multiple times a day, skinny or not.)
I watch a lot of food TV, and I’ll admit it: I like Mario Batali as a celebrity chef. He’s dynamic, bears a striking resemblance to Melissa McCarthy (of whom I am a huge fan), and hey, I love a man in orange. However, he has a track record of being something of a horse’s ass offscreen (see: the time he told a female colleague to “get used to” sexual harassment because “this is New York”, the time he compared bankers to Hitler, the time he allegedly ran multiple tip-stealing rings, and the time he called a blogger a “snarky princess” for, um, writing about him) so this “fuck you don’t judge my food skinny actresses” rant isn’t really a shocker. It is indicative of a larger trend though—one that degrades women on both sides of the restaurant kitchen.