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Chef Clare Smyth is the 2018 recipient of the World's Best Female Chef Award. — Picture courtesy of Anne Emmanuelle Thion
Chef Clare Smyth is the 2018 recipient of the World’s Best Female Chef Award. — Picture courtesy of Anne Emmanuelle Thion

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept 12 — The director of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants organisation has penned a lengthy blog post defending the controversial World’s Best Female Chef award, while the dialogue on gender parity continues to rage on in film, sports, gastronomy and in the world at large.

Critics charge that the award, which debuted in 2011, is sexist and condescending to female chefs.

The chorus of dissent has grown louder in recent years, with top chefs and food personalities like Mario Batali, John Besh, Mike Isabella and Ken Friedman felled by long lists of women who’ve come forward with allegations of sexual harassment.

But in a recently published blog post that includes quotes from past recipients like Clare Smyth and Dominique Crenn, director Helene Pietrini describes the award as a platform for female chefs that fosters an environment for female voices.

“The World’s Best Female Chef is not an award that seeks to separate female cooking or define it as ‘other,’ but provides an opportunity for successful women to be celebrated, as well as for them to address important issues including representation,” she writes.

“Fifty Best’s role is to amplify their achievements and their messages to an international audience.”

Smyth, the 2018 recipient of the award, voiced her support for the award, saying: “Sometimes you have to go over the top by recognising women and giving them a platform so that we can really start to re-correct the balance.”

In spite of — or thanks to — the controversy, recipients who may be known locally but not globally, gain international exposure with the award, which comes from an equally but undeniably influential restaurant ranking, the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

Past recipients have also included Elena Arzak, Leonor Espinosa and Ana Ros.

To promote ongoing dialogue, the group announced the “informal” creation of an advisory board made up of leading female chefs who will help shape the group’s policies and content.

“Equality is rarely on the menu at the finest restaurants,” wrote Crenn in a guest column earlier this spring.

“Gender equality doesn’t just happen, it’s the ingredient you have to forage for, the one that makes you work to extract its incredible flavours and textures. But it’s that same hard-to-get ingredient that keeps your guests coming back for more. The world is hungry for change. This is where we start.”

Today, top chefs and food personalities including Crenn, Lara Gilmore, Gaggan Anand and Virgilio Martinez will speak at a panel discussion in San Francisco as part of the group’s #50BestTalks. The event, which will be livestreamed on Facebook starting at 2pm local time, will be themed around “championing a diverse future.” — AFP-Relaxnews

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