Token woman = Secure status quo.
As far as rank goes, Jenna Reich is the only commis (junior chef) on the Bocuse d’Or Canada team (and she's a culinary student). From the perspective of her power and solo status, she's not in a position to challenge the “world-class team of Canada’s leading chefs” on any issue. And evidence suggests that’s just how they like it.
The event’s PR team, led by Brigitte Foisy, has been working overtime to produce “woke” content. Their home page has a video featuring team candidate chef Trevor Ritchie and chef Reich. The banner features images of Canadian chefs including Mark McEwan, Jonathan Gushue, and Jason Bangerter alongside photos of mostly unknown young women and Foissy herself. To celebrate International Women’s Day, they posted this photo. I’d place a Vegas bet most of the women here are culinary students. That doesn’t mean they’re not important, but none of them qualifies as a peer of the male chefs associated with the event. It’s painfully ironic that the Bocuse d’Or Canada is using images of young women to promote the competition and appear gender friendly while having just one woman, in a junior position, on the team.
It could work if the objective is to attract more young women. But where are the female chefs who are peers of McEwan, Gushue, and Bangerter? There’s also an acute exclusion of female chefs among the band of eight senior chefs on the team. Why are they absent from the ranks? How will young women get a vision of their future without them? Regarding mentorship, it’s a serious omission.
As far as team demographics go, 2019 represents progress. Here is the competition team in 2017 and 2015. And the chefs honoured as Bocuse d’Or Canada laureates are, brace yourself, all men.
The team’s fathership is the CCFCC Canada (Canadian Culinary Federation) whose mission is, “...to unite chefs and cooks across Canada in a common dedication to professional excellence.” (You’re not out of the loop if you’ve never heard of them.)
It should be no surprise that the ten members of the CCFCC’s National Executive, are all men. But hold on, there are two women serving as junior board reps. Recognize that pattern?
Many Canadian culinary institutions require CCFCC certification for their teaching faculty. Meaning, the membership has a significant population of culinary educators. So the chefs teaching young culinary students, a body that’s reached gender parity, are being certified by an organisation that, for all appearances, is hostile to women.
Most Canadian competitions are affiliated with culinary schools. There's often a designated faculty member overseeing young student competitors. I can’t speak to how many female faculty members are assigned to this, but I’d hazard a guess the number is disturbingly low.
It's a tangled web of institutions with a special kind of cultural blindness that allows this biased infrastructure to exist. The trickle-down effect of those values is worrisome. I’d argue you can see them at work in the demographic makeup of the current Bocuse d’Or Canada team.
The team has no sponsors listed on their website, but the CCFCC has plenty. The footer banner on their website lists the companies tied to their organisation. Wonder if their corporate sponsors are aware of the bias toward men.
I don’t know how long it will take for the Bocuse d’Or Canada or the CCFCC to accurately represent the culinary industry at large. The CCFCC's mission statement to "unite chefs and cooks" is laughable, and without women “professional excellence” is impossible.
Before I depart, here’s a word on the dull and predictable response of ‘no women applied.’ First, it’s the preferred refrain of this set. When I hear it, I know I’m dealing with lazy, status-quo-loving individuals. Change takes strenuous and prolonged effort.