Asia’s Best Female Chefs on What It Takes to Be Successful
On International Women's Day, we celebrate four outstanding women in the restaurant industry-all of whom have an appetite for success.
In an industry notoriously known for foul-mouthed chefs and cooks, show-offish machismo, and kitchens run on testosterone overload, these four outstanding women—who all have the title of “Asia’s Best Female Chef” under their belts, are making moves to pave the way for equality and excellence in the kitchen.
“When this [Asia’s Best Female Chef] honor was given, a lot of people didn’t look at it so positively,” says Filipina awardee of 2016 Margarita Forés. Why do women need to be distinguished? Why can’t women simply win the “Best Chef” award? “The reality is that it’s always been a male-driven industry. I think to decide to honor female chefs is a step forward.”
“I think the word “Female” is in the title because it encourages women to jump into the industry and be great at it," says chef Hong Kong-based and Michelin-starred chef Vicky Lau, who won the award in 2015. "In many countries, the social value of a woman working in the kitchen is not the same as that of a man’s. I don’t want to see “Female” in the title, either, but you have to admit it—it’s necessary. But, I hope that in a few years, it will be gone.”
“I don’t think there is a difference between men and women inside the kitchen—there shouldn’t be a difference inside the kitchen—it’s all about commitment,” says Asia’s Best Female Chef of 2014 Lanshu Chen. “The work is highly-concentrated and stressful. It really needs a lot of commitment to hang on.”
Bo Songvisava, Asia’s Best Female Chef of 2013 who hails from Thailand, gives her two cents on doing well in the restaurant industry: “Men and women are equally capable of cooking well. Anyone can be excellent at it—just work smart, whether you are a man or a woman, and you will last longer [in this business]. Working hard will only get you so far, you need to be efficient as well.”
“Just follow your passion, it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in,” Lau claims.
“Be a sponge—feel strongly about your mom’s best dish, or what ingredients are from your province, or travel a lot. Take in all these external influences, and be willing to get tired—that is the secret to being successful and lasting long in this industry,” says Forés.