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Skirt Steak: Women Chefs on Standing the Heat and Staying in the Kitchen Hardcover – October 24, 2012

2.7 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this well-researched book, food journalist Druckman explores what it’s like for women in the very intense and sometimes glamorous restaurant industry as she interviews 75 female chefs and restaurant owners from around the country. Initially, the author’s jokey asides seem distracting and the footnotes reminiscent of a term paper, but once the other voices are interspersed, hers becomes endearing and the footnotes useful sources of additional background, including what certain lingo like BOH (back of house) means. She speaks with such luminaries as Alice Waters and Lydia Shire as well as newbies Christina Tosi and Stephanie Izard (to date the only woman to have won Top Chef). The chefs weigh in on a variety of subjects including how to promote themselves and grow their businesses via television and social media, and balancing 18-hour days and personal lives. But the biggest recurring issue they encounter is sexism, like the banker who won’t give a chef-owner with a thriving restaurant a loan for a second place, the guys in the kitchen who verbally abuse and harass their female counterparts, and the pastry field, where many women end up and do spectacularly well, but are far less respected by awards outfits and restaurant critics.

Review

Publishers Weekly: In this well-researched book, food journalist Druckman explores what it's like for women in the very intense and sometimes glamorous restaurant industry as she interviews 75 female chefs and restaurant owners from around the country. Initially, the author's jokey asides seem distracting and the footnotes reminiscent of a term paper, but once the other voices are interspersed, hers becomes endearing and the footnotes useful sources of additional background, including what certain lingo like BOH (back of house) means. She speaks with such luminaries as Alice Waters and Lydia Shire as well as newbies Christina Tosi and Stephanie Izard (to date the only woman to have won Top Chef). The chefs weigh in on a variety of subjects including how to promote themselves and grow their businesses via television and social media, and balancing 18-hour days and personal lives. But the biggest recurring issue they encounter is sexism, like the banker who won't give a chef-owner with a thriving restaurant a loan for a second place, the guys in the kitchen who verbally abuse and harass their female counterparts, and the pastry field, where many women end up and do spectacularly well, but are far less respected by awards outfits and restaurant critics. (Nov.)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books (October 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1452107092
  • ISBN-13: 978-1452107097
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,175,784 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I have only read 3 chapters at this point, however thus far this book is a real disappointment. As a chef, I was hoping for some in-depth analysis into my world but between the exhaustive footnotes and the author's constant opinion on every little thing (down to where to get the best macaroons), I still can't get through it. It's insulting when the writer is writing about women in the kitchen but then proceeds to make all the same mistakes and assumptions about women in the kitchen. I don't need to read that sort of book; I live it. What female chefs need is a female chef writing about their experiences, not a food writer that spends pages upon pages on herself. The book feels very self-deserving. The reader doesn't need to read for pages about how you would work in a kitchen but physically can't. We don't care. This is not your story, but at every turn you have found a way to make it about yourself.....down to pages about a previous incident with a pastry chef, where you still try to get your point across about the "disagreement" you had. That whole section felt like a 16 year old girl that wouldn't let go of a fight with her boyfriend. Who cares? I am not reading this book to hear about all your wonderful eating experiences in Paris, or to "oh and ah" at your list of chef connections. I want to feel closer to the women that do what I do everyday. Honestly, I can't believe the editors even let in most of the personal footnotes. They only tire and piss off the reader. I don't even have the energy to go into all the quotes....ridiculous is all I can say.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I agree with the January 3, 2013, review of this book, and then some... I write for a living, and cook, and do a lot of other things...but most of all I write. And when I write, I write to my audience. I want the reader to walk away with something useful to them. Unfortunately, Ms. Druckman missed that mark.

I start with the positive aspects of my experience: I love the title, cover, and concept of this book. Ms. Druckman was on our local NPR station the day I ordered it. In the process of discovering my second profession, which includes the culinary arts, I ordered "Skirt Steak" while she was still on the radio. When I picked up the book a few days later I was settled in with a great glass of white wine, in front of a cozy fire, and a quiet house. Suffice it to say, I was poised to love this book - and I set it down after two chapters and have not picked it up since.

To begin with, the writing is that of an (almost) attorney. Very literal, overly descriptive, and written with an obvious intent to ensure that even a five year old understands her point(s). The demographic of Ms. Druckman's audience is relatively well educated, curious, with a fair amount of life experience under her/his belt...no need to explain the minutiae. I am also not a big fan of people who dwell on the negative. I don't want to be lied to but I most certainly appreciate some sense of humor, compassion, or tenderness (even when the going gets tough).

Again, I love the concept of this book but not the book itself. Maybe Ms. Druckman's next endeavor will hit that sweet spot where humor, intellect, and appreciation of ones audience meet.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have followed Charlotte Druckman's writing in a variety of places. Besides being incredibly knowledgable about almost every aspect of food, what you sense is that she REALLY enjoys it. It's not JUST an intellectual enterprise--you feel the pleasure she gets from it. But of course the real issue is her subject: looking at the lives of women chefs in a really fascinating way. All I know is that I was more curious about this whole world after finishing it, which is always the sign of a great book.
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Format: Hardcover
Very well written analysis of what it takes to STAY in the kitchen as a woman. The chapters on motherhood and Anne Rosenzweig are excellent. It takes an incredible amount of support and stamina to stay in the kitchen, and this book reflects the experience of the 'first wave' of successful female chefs.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a foodie and devotee of the Food Network and The Cooking Channel, I was excited about delving into the career histories of well-known female chefs. I'm sory to say that from the very outset, it was clear that Charlotte Druckman was going to provide ehr readers with very little substance.

It takes a whole chapter for her - with quotes from some of the chefs she interviewed - to try to come up with a definition of the word "chef". I'm not sure one was ever forthcoming, because by about mid-chapter, I was already skipping ahead to see where the in-depth interviews were. Unfortunately, there weren't any: just snippets, interspersed with long passages detailing the writer's own experiences and impressions, her fan-girl relationship with some of the chefs, and so on and on. The style is gee-whiz with a generous sprinkling of girly parentheses and italics.

It's almost as rare for me not to finish a book as it is not to finish a meal, but a few bites of this one were more than enough. I hop someone will take this subject and start over, devoting each chapter to one of the interesting female chefs this country has produced, and letting her speak for herself - without the parentheses.
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