The Astor Center recently conducted an interesting experiment, enlisting Grant Achatz as well as food writers Ed Levine, Dana Cowin, and Gwen Hyman to try to determine whether a host of plates had been cooked by a man or woman. The exercise was hardly scientific given that the chefs who prepared the dueling dishes knew what they were cooking for (Butter’s Alexandra Guarnaschelli tried to trick the judges by making squab with foie-gras–draped croutons), but hey, the panel did get to hash out stereotypes that women tend to cook subtly, nurturingly, precisely, and from the heart, while men cook from the gut and in order to impress, often using red meat, bold flavors, gadgets, and dazzling techniques. The panel’s conclusion, after failing to I.D. the genders: Chefs may be influenced by their mentors and by family members more than by their sex. The Feedbag is up in arms about the stunt: “Lady chefs generally cook like men, since there is so little market for dainty food today, but if they had their druthers, most lady chefs would be serving salads and diaphanous little goat-cheese confections.” Yikes. We’re keeping an eye on the comments in case, say, April Bloomfield or Anne Burrell has something to say about that.
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