Tell me about your experiences in Culinary Arts School:
“At the end of January I graduated from a program in Classic Pastry Arts at the International Culinary Center in Campbell, CA. There were some things that really surprised me. One of them was that the male chefs at the center made a regular habit of yelling at their students, turning beat red in the face, throwing things, cussing their students out, banging rolling pins on the tables solely to intimidate their students. This has also been shown on TV shows like Hell’s Kitchen, but I thought this was for the cameras. Apparently verbal abuse is part of the training.”
Do you think they do this as an initiation process?:
“Absolutely! One of the chefs openly shared that that’s how he was trained and that he believed he was making us better by doing this to us.”
The culinary world is a field which outsiders have little knowledge of. The few representations we have are television shows on channels like The Food Network. By nature that they are television shows , it is unclear how much of the performance is a dramatization for the cameras and how much is genuine. Here we have evidence that most of the drama is actually representative of the culture surrounding culinary arts.
This yelling and intimidation is, in the eyes of the chefs, a right of passage that transforms them from students into professionals in the industry. It seems that this methodology has been passed down from previous chefs with the intention of preparing them for high stress situations that are most likely common in a kitchen/restaurant environment. It must also be a sign of superiority and strength in the kitchen for the lead chef to scold those below him; only the head chef can yell.
Tell me about some of the other customs or experiences in your Culinary Arts Program:
“Another thing that caught me off guard was that the chefs used “Suzie Homemaker” as an insult. One time the chef saw me holding my knife as I was slicing pears and he shouted, “Rebecca, you look like a Suzy Homemaker holding your knife like that! You don’t look like a chef! Why aren’t you holding your knife the way I showed you?” and then shook his head at me. Another time we used pastry bags with interchangeable, decorative tips while learning different techniques to frost cakes. He scoffed and looked at me and said, “You probably have one of these don’t you? All Suzy Homemakers do.” I had to confess that I didn’t. The assumption is that amateurs often try to learn pasty skills at home and that we would be unsuccessful at it. Often times he ridiculed non-professionals who make themselves out to be experts by making Youtube tutorials or even publishing books that use wrong techniques. Before now, I thought the title Suzy Homemaker referred to somebody who was skilled and now I’ve learned a new use of the term.”
“Suzie Homemaker’ was a line of toys released in the 1960’s and is the derivation for the now commonly used term. The line of toys included dolls and other faux appliances. As such, it has been linked to domestic roles traditionally played by women. The participant, my mother, and I had similar a understandings of the meaning to be positive and descriptive of a female who was a good cook, kept a clean organized home and supported the needs of her family in the domestic sphere. Upon doing some research, I learned that the term has been adopted by feminists as a means of scorning women who still conform to these gender roles.
My mother was exposed to a new meaning for the term; in the culinary world it is used as an insult to ridicule amateurs. Depending on the context of the term, it can have different meanings.