Though women enter France’s culinary professions at higher rates than ever, men still receive the lion’s share of the major awards and Michelin stars. Rachel E. Black looks at the experiences of women in Lyon to examine issues of gender inequality in France’s culinary industry. Known for its female-led kitchens, Lyon provides a unique setting for understanding the gender divide, as Lyonnais women have played a major role in maintaining the city’s culinary heritage and its status as a center for innovation. Voices from history combine with present-day interviews and participant observation to reveal the strategies women use to navigate male-dominated workplaces or, in many cases, avoid men in kitchens altogether. Black also charts how constraints imposed by French culture minimize the impact of #MeToo and other reform-minded movements.
All proceeds from this book benefit the Amis d’Eugénie Brazier scholarship fund.
“The Female Cooks Who Shaped French Cuisine,” Oct. 13, 2021, Zocalo Public Square
Rachel Black is an associate professor of Anthropology at Connecticut College, where she also leads the Food Pathway. Black’s areas of specialization are food studies, labor, and gender. Her most recent book, Cheffes de cuisine: women and work in the professional French kitchen (U Illinois Press, 2021), considers women’s contributions to the male-dominated field of French cuisine. Black’s ethnography investigates the structural barriers that often keep women from reaching the top of culinary professions and gaining the recognition that they deserve.
Porta Palazzo: The Anthropology of an Italian Market (U Penn Press, 2012), Black’s first book, is a sensory-rich deep dive into Western Europe’s largest open-air market. Porta Palazzo considers the important social, economic and cultural functions of food markets in European cities.
Black has also conducted research on wine and is the co-editor of Wine and Culture: Vineyard to Glass (Bloomsbury, 2013)
Black’s latest project “The Taste of Climate Change” investigates the impact of climate change on cuisines in Southern Europe. Black has been named a 2021 Associate Research Director through the Fondation Maison des sciences de l’homme and will be working with scholars at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Marseille, France to further this research project.
Rachel Black is the former president of the Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition. She is currently a board member of the Association for the Study of Food and Society, where she leads the committee for diversity, equity and inclusion. Black serves as an associate editor for the interdisciplinary journal Food and Foodways.